The end of summer and the start of a new school year is an exciting time for most children. But for some, the beginning of school could reveal a dark secret when signs of abuse and neglect these children have suffered over the summer are noticed by teachers, staff and other parents.

“Because children are subject to less adult supervision over the summer, it’s not uncommon for reports of suspected abuse and neglect to spike at the start of the school year,” said Patti Dremler, coordinator with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Gila County.

Physical abuse is just one type of child abuse. Child neglect, the unwillingness to care appropriately for a child, sexual and emotional abuse can inflict just as much damage, and since they are not always as obvious, they often are not reported, and no one is there to intervene. Not all abusive parents or guardians intentionally harm their children. Many have been victims of abuse and neglect themselves and do not know any other way to parent. Others may be struggling with mental illness or a substance use disorder. Abuse and neglect doesn’t only happen in poor families or bad neighborhoods. These behaviors cross all racial, economic, and cultural lines.

CASA volunteers are specially trained to recognize the signs and effects of child abuse. CASA volunteers speak up for these vulnerable children who, through no fault of their own, end up in the foster care system - often being placed in an alternate home far from their friends, families and schools.

There are currently 130 children in the child protection system in Gila County, and only 20 CASA volunteers to advocate for their best interests.

“Too many children are forced to go through the chaos of moving through the child protection system alone,” Dremler said.

“CASA of Gila County needs more volunteers to step up and be a voice for children who desperately need them. We want to help ensure that their stay in foster care is as short as possible and that they are placed in safe, loving homes as quickly as possible so they can begin to heal,” she added.

Don’t let them go back to school alone. Together we can ensure each child in foster care has the support to be successful. Become a CASA volunteer today!

Requirements include:

· Be 21 years old

· Be willing to complete necessary background checks, provide references and participate in an interview

· Complete a minimum of 30 hours of pre-service training

· Be available for court appearances, with advance notice

· Be willing to commit to the CASA program until your first case is closed

For details visit casaofgilacounty.org or contact Patti Dremler, 928-474-7145.

Contact the reporter 

tmcquerrey@payson.com

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