Child Advocacy Services needs more volunteers
"In St. Charles Parish so far this year there have been 190 cases of reported abuse and neglect against children," Rob Carlisle, executive director of Child Advocacy Services, said.
That total includes the parishes of St. Charles, St. James, and St. John.
"We need caring people to work with our children, one voice for every one child," Carlisle said. "We want to help these children through the recovery process. We need anyone with a desire to improve the lives of children in their communities."
As of now, there are 13 volunteers in St. Charles Parish. All volunteers must be 21 years of age and they must have a clean background.
According a national study done by the Department of Health and Human Services, children who suffer from a developmental, mental health or similar disability suffer the highest rate of abuse. The Child Protection Services Agency reports that nearly eight percent of victims of child abuse had a reported disability. More than three percent of victims had behavior problems and 1.9 percent of victims were emotionally disturbed.
"We work with children who suffer with these risk factors, it's very common," Carlisle said. "St. Charles Parish is the only parish that has a CASA representative going into the classroom to educate children against sexual predators."
That representative, Christa Nicola, goes to social clubs, civic organizations, and schools to teach children about good secrets and bad secrets and what to do about them.
"In the 10 parishes we serve, we are the only one with a program like this," Carlisle said."We have an advocate supervisor that trains the volunteers, and the supervisor hears the case directly from the court and decides, which volunteer best fits with the needs of that particular child. One person is assigned one child at a time."
Carlisle says professional individuals, the full time employed, college students, and retirees are among the kinds of volunteers working with the kids. The organization also recently hired a CASA recruiter to make their presence felt more in the community.
"We take cases appointed judicially by the judge and we have independent volunteers working with children. We also refer these children to services in the community specific to their needs."
Carlisle says the number of validated abuse and neglect cases reported so far this year has remained consistent.
"Within the tri-parish area we had 208 validated cases of abuse last year, 208, and it looks like with the current numbers of 190 that number should be holding steady," he said. "We would like to see the number go down but we are thankful that it hasn't increased."
For more information on how you can become a CASA volunteer in St. Charles Parish, call 1-800-798-1575.
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