Volunteer To Make A Difference In The Life Of A Child

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October is a time to prepare for celebrating all the things for which we have been blessed come Thanksgiving.

It is a time for taking stock of our successes, missteps and mistakes of the past nine months.

It has also been designated as a month in which to raise awareness of two great threats — breast cancer and domestic violence.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month — an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same.

The statistics are both sobering and hopeful, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime; however when breast cancer is detected early (localized stage), the five-year survival rate is 98 percent.

To do our part in the drive to raise awareness, like many other publications, pink is center stage on our front page, which also features an article about the support and services for those fighting not only breast cancer, but other cancers as well. Please take the time to acquaint yourself with the good work and opportunities to help the fight.

Domestic violence cannot yet put many encouraging statistics on the “scoreboard.” Urgent efforts continue to help give women and children an escape from domestic violence.

One of the most unfortunate aspects of this plague on society: all the children that are trapped in the chokehold of domestic violence and neglect.

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program of Gila County is encouraging the community to take action. There is a strong connection between domestic violence and child abuse, and the CASA of Gila County program is currently seeking new volunteers to advocate for these abused and neglected children in court.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, one or more children witness domestic violence in Arizona every 44 minutes. In addition, up to 60 percent of perpetrators of partner violence also abuse their children.

Currently in the Town of Payson, there are 23 cases involving 41 children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. Despite this alarming number, there are currently only 16 active CASA volunteers who are advocating for these children in court.

CASA volunteers serve as critical figures in the lives of children who have suffered from abuse or neglect. After receiving special training and being appointed by a judge, CASA volunteers gather all of the information involving a child’s case, and make formal recommendations to the court on the child’s behalf. For many children, their CASA volunteer is the only consistent adult presence they have experienced in their lifetime.

CASA volunteers

• Volunteers must be at least 21 years old.

• Volunteers go through a rigorous screening process including interviews, reference check, a fingerprint check, and polygraph exam.

• Volunteers are asked to make a commitment to one case until its conclusion, typically involving 10 to 20 hours per month.

• Volunteers must complete 30 hours of pre-service training.

• CASA volunteers are advocates, not mentors. Their objective is to help the court system determine the best outcome for the child.

• CASA volunteers try to build a 360-degree view of the child and his or her surroundings. To do this, they meet with teachers, counselors, physicians and guardians.

• CASA volunteers work to ensure that children are in safe, permanent homes where they can thrive.

Child abuse statistics

• In the six-month period of October 2012 to March 2013, the Child Abuse Hotline received 32,300 calls.

• Neglect is the most common form of child abuse followed by physical abuse.

• Reports of child abuse and neglect have been consistently rising in Arizona since 2010.

• There are currently 14,314 Arizona children living in out-of-home care.

• The majority of children who are in out-of-home care in Arizona (34.5 percent) are ages 1 to 5.

The CASA program is managed by the Arizona Supreme Court and has offices in all 15 Arizona counties. County programs recruit and train community-based volunteers to speak up for the rights of abused and neglected children in court. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to foster children who have the greatest need for an advocate. Volunteers do not provide placement or a home for the child, but are strictly advocates who submit their recommendations directly to the judge hearing a child’s case. CASA volunteers complete 30 hours of training to prepare them for their duties.

For more information on CASA of Gila County or how you can become a volunteer, contact Lyndsie Butler at (928) 474-7146 or visit www.CASAofGilaCounty.org.

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