A local organization is working to call attention to the problem of child abuse this month.
The Northeast Georgia CASA program is reminding people that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate.
The Northeast Georgia program serves eight counties, including Stephens County.
Pat McCollum is a Northeast Georgia CASA board member and a trained CASA volunteer.
She said their organization’s goal is to be the voice of abused and neglected children in the court system.
“We tell foster children usually that we are appointed by the judge to be his eyes and ears, so he will know what is best for them,” said McCollum. “Our goal is to find a safe, permanent home for abused and neglected children as soon as possible.”
McCollum went on to say that the CASA organization is using this month to raise awareness in a number of different ways about the problem of child abuse.
“We want people to first of all, be aware of child abuse prevention and then for people and organizations to work together towards making our community a better place for children and for families,” said McCollum. “We want parents to have the knowledge and resources they need to care for their children appropriately and then we can promote the well-being of children.”
McCollum said CASA works to prevent child abuse in many different ways.
One of those is working with parents to help them build up what McCollum calls “protective factors” like nurturing and attachment, knowledge of parenting and child development, parental resilience, social connections, and developing the child’s social and emotional well-being.
McCollum said there are other things CASA volunteers do to help end that cycle of child abuse.
That includes placing children in a stable home environment.
“Many parents are very young,” said McCollum. “We can help them navigate the system.”
That includes, she said, working with the family and the system to help parents get their children back.
McCollum said there is a need for more CASA volunteers, especially in Stephens, Habersham, and Rabun counties.
CASA volunteers receive 30 hours of classroom training, 10 hours of court room observation, and are subject to a background and reference check.
The next training session is in Mid-April.
For those who want to help in other ways, McCollum says CASA holds fundraisers and accepts donations.
For more information on the Northeast Georgia CASA program, call 706-886-1098 or go online to www.negacasa.org.