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April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Child abuse is one of the horrifying realities of life. It happens every day, in every state in America.

According to Childhelp, a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds. Even more disheartening, an estimated four to seven children are lost each day to child abuse and neglect.

These statistics are startling and often uncomfortable to contemplate but they cannot simply be ignored. That is why each year in April, the United States observes National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time intended to shine a spotlight on the problem and raise awareness about how to put a stop to it.

In Nevada, the Nevada Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, Association and Prevent Child Abuse Nevada are teaming up to raise awareness and provide valuable resources to the communities all around the Silver State.

“The Nevada Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association and Prevent Child Abuse Nevada, part of UNLV’s Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy, have partnered on a messaging campaign in recognition of April’s National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Created to acknowledge the importance of the community working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, the month draws attention to effective solutions because all children deserve to thrive during childhood,” a news release from the two organizations detailed.

Pioneer Territory CASA and the Nevada Outreach Training Organization will be getting involved as well, with their own awareness efforts.

“Child abuse is one of those issues that everyone thinks ‘not in our Community’. Sadly, child abuse is more prevalent than any of us want to admit,” PT CASA Executive Director Kathie McKenna told the Pahrump Valley Times. “During the month of April, Pioneer Territory CASA Inc. and the Nevada Outreach Training Organization will be partnering on child abuse awareness in our Community. Bringing awareness to the issue helps with solving the problem.”

There are many factors that contribute to child abuse and neglect, including stress, family history of violence, poverty, substance abuse and even chronic health problems. Child abuse knows no boundaries; it occurs across all sectors of the population, regardless of income level, racial or ethnic background. And unfortunately, incidents of child abuse and neglect tend to rise during times of economic instability, such as those being experienced right now due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic.

So the question is, what can a person do to effect a change and help prevent child abuse? One way is to step up and offer assistance to families who may be struggling.

“Every family needs support during stressful times, and everyone can play a role in making the community more supportive. Increasing informal resources for families can reduce stress and increase support,” the news release from the two statewide organizations stated. “Such resources might include getting to know new neighbors and families, volunteering for pre- or post-school programs, or providing time for parents to have an occasional break by offering to babysit, organizing neighborhood activities and ensuring the inclusion of all children in social settings.”

Outside of offering support and assistance to families, those wishing to make a difference in the lives of children who have suffered from abuse or neglect can do so by becoming a voice for those children. More CASA volunteers are always needed and the impact these advocates can have on the lives of youth who have been placed into foster care cannot be understated.

“CASA volunteers advocate for the most vulnerable children currently in foster care, to ensure they receive a safe, loving, permanent home,” the news release read.

For Nye and Esmeralda counties, PT CASA is the local nonprofit dedicated to recruiting, training and supporting a force of CASA volunteers.In the last year, even amid the appearance of the COVID-19 pandemic, PT CASA was able to install several new CASA volunteers, but as detailed on its website, that work is never-ending.

“There are still over 30 children in foster care in our community that have no voice representing them in court,” the PT CASA website states. “While lawyers on both side submit piles of documentation and briefs to the court, these children get no say in their future. Sound heartbreaking?”

It is the goal of PT CASA, and indeed, CASA organizations all over the country, to ensure that all foster youth have a CASA that can speak to their best interests throughout court proceedings. It may seem as if doing so will require a large dedication of time but on average, CASAs need to spend only three to four hours per month on their volunteer duties and those few short hours can have a lasting effect on the trajectory of the rest of a child’s life.

Anyone interested in becoming a CASA volunteer is encouraged to reach out to PT CASA, or the CASA organization in their area, to learn more about the process.

“You do not have to be a lawyer or a social worker to be a volunteer. We welcome people from all walks of life,” PT CASA’s website explains. “We are simply looking for people who care about children and have common sense. As a volunteer, you will be thoroughly trained and well-supported by professional staff, who will help you through each case. You must pass a background check, participate in a 30-hour training course, and agree to stay with a case until it is closed (a year and a half, on average).”

For more information on becoming a CASA visit www.PTCASAnv.org or email training and recruiting coordinator John Elkins at John@ptcasanv.org. Applications to become a CASA are also available on the website.

For more abuse prevention resources and information visit www.preventchildabusenevada.org

To report suspected child abuse in Nevada call 833-803-1183 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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