The 20th Judicial District of Court Appointed Special Advocates or CASA, have proclaimed Faulkner County a participant in a national effort to bring awareness and to prevent child abuse and neglect.
April is child abuse prevention and awareness month and CASA asks that community members “help send a message of hope to the abused and neglected children living amongst us.”
Community events are scheduled to bring awareness and to dispel myths about child abuse.
County Judge Preston Scroggin will formally proclaim April as child abuse prevention and awareness month at a proclamation and flag raising ceremony at the Faulkner County courthouse April 1 at 12 p.m.
Tess Fletcher, executive director of CASA said the awareness flag will fly over the courthouse for the entire month of April.
Three speakers will address the community, including Julian Holloway, state CASA director, Marcus Vaden, 20th Judicial District prosecuting attorney, and an active court advocate. The advocate, Fletcher said, will give their account of experiences working in the court system and representing children who lack a voice.
Searcy and Van Buren counties will also hold proclamation and flag raising ceremonies in April.
CASA Kidsfest Celebration will take place at Simon Park in Conway, April 10 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“This event started as a talent show but this year will be different. Instead of a contest, different groups in the community will perform for us,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher said she expects performances from Sonshine Academy, dance groups, a cheerleading team and individual singing groups to entertain the crowd.
“It’s basically a day of entertainment. There will be art and craft activities. The groups that perform are mainly children. It’s interesting to see children raising awareness on an issue that directly effects them.”
The festival will also feature different agencies with booths displaying their non-profit organization’s involvement with children.
An important day for CASA is April 21. On this day the organization will hold an open house at its new storefront in partnership with the Children’s Advocacy Alliance of North Central Arkansas at 2324 Washington Avenue in Conway.
The open house will take place from 4 to 7 p.m., and will be the community’s opportunity to see the facility and to tour the program.
“Staff and volunteers will provide brief explanations on the program and our new forensic interview room. We will answer questions from the public,” Fletcher said.
The new venue will house the Children’s Advocacy Alliance and the 20th Judicial District program.
“The two programs work side by side to provide coordinated guidance, treatment and support for child victims of abuse and neglect, from the initial investigation of abuse to their placement in a safe, permanent home,” Kat Dull, outreach coordinator said in a release. “The Alliance is a place for hope and a voice for justice.”
Fletcher said she hopes with the awareness and prevention month, CASA will be able to grow by number of advocates, or that the public will tell others about the program.
“Our goal is that no child will walk into a courtroom without an advocate,” Fletcher said. “And right now, we’re not able to support 40 to 50 percent of the kids.”
According to Dull and CASA’s Web site, 265 children were found to be victims of child maltreatment in the 20th Judicial District, which represents Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy counties.
“These are not children who live somewhere else. These are children living in our neighborhoods, going to our schools and churches, who play on our kids’ soccer teams. These are innocent victims who have been let down by the people that are meant to love them the most,” Dull said.
Raising awareness, Dull believes, is the strongest action one can take to prevent abuse.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)