Take A Stand Against Child Abuse
During National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, CASA of Luzerne County asks residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania to stand against child abuse and take action to support children who have been abused or neglected. At any given time, there are 440 children in foster care in Luzerne County. These children come into the child welfare system through no fault of their own. Lately, more and more children enter the system because of the opioid epidemic facing our region. Nationally, a report of abuse against a child is made every 10 seconds and five children die every day because of abuse and neglect. “As an advocate for three years now, and especially since enlarging my role with CASA last June as an advocate coordinator, I have become acutely aware of the need to advocate for children who find themselves in the child welfare system. A need that, unfortunately, is growing daily,” said Annie Ellis, CASA of Luzerne County Advocate Coordinator and CASA volunteer. Throughout the month of April, CASA of Luzerne County is asking members of the community to help our program serve more of our most vulnerable children. Each one of these children deserves a volunteer advocate to be a constant amidst the chaos. The CASA staff is here to train and support each advocate as they speak up for the best interest of each child. “As both a CASA volunteer and advocate coordinator, I have seen the impact that a trusted, caring, and dedicated adult can have on a child’s life,” said Shannon Joyce, CASA of Luzerne County Advocate Coordinator and CASA volunteer. “We work with children who have experienced their worst days and try to bring them to their best days. As a CASA volunteer, you can truly make a difference in a child’s life and add meaning to yours.” Without intervention, the odds are stacked against children in foster care. A child with a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer, however, spends 20 percent less time in foster care, on average, compared to a child without a CASA volunteer. Studies show children with a CASA volunteer receive more services that are critical to their well-being and are four times more likely to find a permanent home. Every child has the right to be respected, the right to dream, the right to be loved and cared for. CASA volunteers are often the ones who remind these children of their rights and help show them that a different life is possible. It’s also important to be aware of the symptoms of child abuse and speak up if you believe a child is being subjected to abuse or neglect. If a child you know is suffering from malnutrition or poor hygiene, experiences extremes in behavior, has unattended medical issues, is frightened of their parent or caregiver, has age-inappropriate knowledge of sex or is hypersexual and acts out with others, or has unexplained bruises, welts, or burns, you can make a report with the Pennsylvania ChildLine by calling 1-800-932-0313. If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, call 911. If volunteering as an advocate isn’t an option for you, there are many ways to show support, including becoming a donor or helping to spread the word about CASA’s mission. You can also follow us on Facebook at CASA of Luzerne County and share what we do with those in your network. CASA of Luzerne County is a member of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (National CASA), a nationwide network of programs in nearly 1,000 communities. At the heart of the movement are nearly 87,000 highly trained volunteers who advocate for the best interests of more than 280,000 of America’s children who have been abused or neglected. In Luzerne County, there are 41 volunteer advocates fighting for the best interests of 60 children, but approximately 380 more children need the care and support of a CASA volunteer. For more information about CASA of Luzerne County, to become a supporter or to volunteer, visit luzernecasa.org or call 570-855-2247.