DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — Child abuse and neglect occur throughout the year. There is no off-season for agencies and organizations determined to stop the problem and support the victims of it.
But they set aside April as a month to really draw attention to the issue.
“April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and it’s a time when all the different child welfare organizations try to reach out to the community and educate them about it,” said Kristen Harris, the executive director of CASA for the Highland Lakes Area. “It’s something that happens right here in our own community.”
On April 20, the local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) group and the Marble Falls Daybreak Rotary are hosting a program from 5:30-6 p.m. in the amphitheater at Johnson Park, 230 Ave. J South.
“It’s a short 20-minute ceremony where we’re going to ring a bell to honor the child abuse victims,” Harris said. “We’ll talk about the local victims (without naming any) in our community and how this impacts them.”
The event features a speaker, who will share her story about how a foster family made impacted her life.
Foster care makes a tremendous difference in the lives of children removed from their homes because of abuse and/or neglect.
“But we don’t have a lot of foster parents locally,” Harris said. “So children who are removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect may end up placed with a foster family two to three hours away.”
This makes it difficult for the children to maintain much continuity in their lives when it comes to school, friends and activities. Their lives are already upended by being removed from their home — the separation from friends and teachers makes it even harder on them.
During the program, CASA and Rotary representatives will talk about various volunteer opportunities within the community. While foster families are needed, that’s only one opportunity.
CASA trains volunteers to become the voices for these children in the court system. Harris pointed out that becoming a CASA advocate might not be something everyone can or wants to do, but there are other ways to help.
“We need people to cook a dinner for the people going through CASA training,” she said. “There are a number of ways people can volunteer and help. The other child welfare groups, such as the Burnet County Child Welfare Board and the Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center, have things people can also help with.
“We just want people to become aware that child abuse does happen and that they can help stop it,” Harris added.
A first step is attending the April 20 event and learning about the problem and some of the volunteer opportunities available.
Go to highlandlakescasa.com or www.hccac.org for more information.