Any time a child is abused or neglected, it is a tragedy. Unfortunately, it happens every day, in every community. The month of April is recognized across the nation as Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is a time to come together as a community to increase awareness and provide education and support to help prevent child abuse and neglect.
This year, the Children’s Advocacy Center of South Arkansas (CAC) and CASA of the 10th Judicial District (CASA) joined efforts to bring awareness to the communities they serve.
The CAC is a safe place for children who may have been abused to tell their story and get the help they need to begin the healing process. One goal is to reduce the impact of trauma, provide medical and mental health services for children and their families, and facilitate the prosecution of offenders by working together through a multidisciplinary team approach.
A multi-disciplinary team (MDT) is the key to the Children’s Advocacy Center. Professionals from a variety of agencies – child protection workers, law enforcement officers, mental health providers, advocates, and prosecutors – join forces to ensure child victims are receiving essential services and referrals, as well as tracking the progress of the criminal case.
“The CAC of South Arkansas serves Union, Ouachita, Calhoun, Bradley, Drew, Ashley and Chicot counties. CASA recruits and trains local community members to investigate, monitor and report back to the court their findings, keeping the best interest of the child in the forefront and ensuring the child has a safe, permanent home.
“The lawyers know the statutes, the social workers the regulations, but the CASA volunteer is assigned to know the child, one child at a time, to understand the boundaries of her life, to telephone her teachers, to consider her hopes and dreams, to try to come to some conclusion about what will be in her best interests. For children whose pasts have been chaotic and whose futures are uncertain, the CASA volunteer may be the most consistent, interested presence in their lives. CASA of the 10th Judicial District serves Ashley, Bradley, Drew, Desha, and Chicot Counties.
“Now more than ever, our families need us – organizations, governmental agencies, businesses, communities, neighborhoods, faith-based groups and individuals – to join together,” Executive Director Robin Krneta said. “When we support families, we become a stronger, more resilient community, and children grow up happy, healthy and safe.”
What happens in childhood can last a lifetime. We know that childhood adversity can have long-lasting negative health effects into adulthood. Science shows that healthy, happy and thriving children have better odds of becoming healthy and happy adults, which is what we all want.
The two programs joined together to have proclamations declared in each county, recognizing April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and planting pinwheel gardens to show their commitment to preventing child abuse and neglect. The blue pinwheel is the national symbol for child abuse prevention, representing the happy, healthy childhoods all children should have.
“As Arkansas strives to give every child the opportunity to grow up healthy and happy, we know we must all work together,” Krneta said. “There is no single public agency, community organization or individual that can ensure success for our children. Together we grow a better tomorrow for Arkansas.”
Both agencies are 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations and seek community support to ensure their ability to providing vital services to the child victims they serve. For more information on the Children’s Advocacy Center of South Arkansas visit www.southarkchildren.com and for CASA of the 10th JD visit www.casaofthe10th.org.
To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the statewide Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline at 1.844.SAVE.A.CHILD or 1.800.482.5964.