Colorful pinwheels spinning in the breeze on the Allen County Courthouse lawn are there for more than decoration.
They draw attention to April being Child Abuse Prevention Month. They were placed Tuesday after county commissioners signed a proclamation recognizing efforts of CASA, Hope Unlimited and others active in protecting today’s youth.
Donita Garner, Hope Unlimited, told commissioners her organization puts focus on helping prevent and also deal with sexual abuse of children, including when courts are involved.
CASA, an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocates, has a more comprehensive role. Its volunteers are trained to step forward to help a child removed from a home, for any reason. Volunteers counsel children when they deal with moving to a new environment, go to court with them and are at their sides when children undergo being a child in need of care.
“Our volunteers make sure all the services are in place for mental health, school and wherever they’re living,” said Aimee Daniels, CASA director for Allen, Neosho, Woodson and Wilson counties.
“Child Abuse Prevention Month is dear to us and nothing would make us happier if it weren’t needed and that our jobs could be eliminated,” she said.
Daniels noted that last year 16 CASA volunteers came to the aid of 50 children. “We could use more volunteers. Our goal is to have an advocate for each child,” she said.
Since 2005, 137 children in the four counties, including 65 in Allen, have had the benefits of CASA.
The goal is to reintegrate a child into his or her home, although frequently children are adopted or placed in a custodianship, Daniels said.
Custodianship is for older children, for whom it is difficult to find families willing to adopt but who still need a place to live. Adoption and custodianship take children out of the court system.
Daniels said child abuse is on the rise in Kansas and the United States as a whole.
“Foster care and children in need of care numbers are at an all-time high in Kansas at 6,500,” Daniels said. “We’re spending $80 billion a year nationally to deal with child abuse,” she said.
In addition to Daniels and Garner, were Don Sewell, of the local CASA group; Alison Leach of KVA, a foster care manager; and Dorothy Sparks, Hope Unlimited director.
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