CAS counselors intervene to help abuse victims

October 05 at 9:34 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

CAS promoting “Pinwheels for Prevention” to end child abuse.
CAS promoting “Pinwheels for Prevention” to end child abuse.
Marcy Willett has always had a passion for helping people, particularly children.

And when she can help a child move past the negative events of their past and thrive, it’s the greatest reward she could ask for. That’s exactly what she gets the chance to do as the newest counselor for Child Advocacy Services (CAS), specializing in trauma focus therapy while working with children who have been victims of abuse or neglect.

“It’s absolutely rewarding,” Willett said. “Day to day, it can be very difficult, but it’s so rewarding when I see some progress being made. When a child can bring their progress through to the rest of their life, really make some major improvements and not let that trauma follow or affect them, it’s a wonderful thing.”

CAS’ mission statement is to “give voice, healing and security to children.” The private nonprofit umbrella agency provides services offering advocacy, clinical services, and prevention education for children and families in St. Charles Parish, as well as nine other parishes in Southeast Louisiana.

Willett provides counseling at both CAS’ St. Charles Parish and St. John Parish offices, and said the ability to intervene when an abuse victim is young can make a vital difference. She is trained to provide trauma focus therapy, often through the method of cognitive behavioral therapy.

“It’s about recognizing how your thoughts are related to your emotions and behaviors,” she said. “It shows how they’re all connected. By changing your thoughts, you can change your behavior and emotions.”

Though CAS’ partnership with United Way of St. Charles, it is able to train its counselors and allow them offer several services and training classes to the public.

One such class is a five-part training course called Not a Number, which is aimed at helping children not become victims of human or labor trafficking. That course will run as part of St. Charles Parish Community Education and on Oct. 17 and 24 and Nov. 1, 7 and 14, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. each night. It will be available for teens ages 14-16.

Through the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program,  unpaid volunteers work with children who have already been removed from their home. The volunteer becomes an advocate for the child in court, speaking to judges, writing court reports and serving as a voice for the represented child.

“More people are volunteering, and I think right now, every child in St. Charles Parish has a CASA on his or her case,” said Angela Golden, CAS Prevention Services Coordinator. “We’re very, very excited about that but we’re always looking for more volunteers to train.”

In conjunction with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, CAS also offers free counseling services for children who have suffered abuse, as well as for the families of that child. Victims are referred through the Children’s Advocacy Center, which conducts forensic interviews in a safe, child-friendly environment for children who have disclosed sexual or physical abuse.

Training is offered to assist adults and children in their need to prevent child abuse and neglect.  CAS also conducts presentations to promote the safety and health of children and families.

View other articles written Ryan Arena

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