Child abuse is a horrible crime that unfortunately affects many families throughout the United States. One of the biggest hurdles law enforcement faces is identifying the victims of the crime. One of the major goals of law enforcement is to prevent future abuse from taking place. Prevention requires education and advocacy. Many communities have come together to spread awareness and to educate the community on signs to look for to identify this often hidden crime. The month of April is designated Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month.
In Illinois, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is the organization that deals directly with identifying child abuse in the home and works closely with social workers and law enforcement personnel to keep children that are abused safe from harm. Once child abuse is suspected or identified, DCFS moves in quickly to remove the child from the home and undergoes an investigation to determine the safest option for the child. This may mean placing the child in foster care or working directly with the families to prevent future abuse. There are also national organizations whose goal is to protect children. These organizations often have local chapters in each state to target smaller communities.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. These are people who specifically advocate on behalf of the rights of children. There are a total of 933 community-based programs in the United States, and each program is in charge of recruiting, instructing, and encouraging volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children. These advocates work in the local communities and go to court in defense of children.
The volunteer advocates provide judges with vital information about each individual child’s circumstances and needs, which is essential to ensuring each child’s well-being is protected while in foster care. Volunteers are part of each child’s life until they are permanently placed in a home. Like a mentor or guardian, they are a constant presence in a child’s life. This is a vital role, as many of these children have no positive role models or consistent adults in their lives.
CASA Kane County is a volunteer, non-profit organization in Illinois that advocates for the best interests of neglected and abused children who are in the juvenile court system.
Last year, volunteers with this organization worked with 552 children across the Kane County area. CASA Kane County also hosted its annual Hands Around the Courthouse event on April 10th, 2014, to alert the public during Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. This was the 10th year in a row that CASA Kane County held this event.
Throughout the month of April, CASA Kane County took part in educating the local community by displaying blue pinwheels on the courthouse lawn. Each pinwheel represented a child the agency served in the previous year.
Raising awareness of the issue of child abuse is the first step in prevention of future abuse. Taking part in local awareness campaigns or going so far as to volunteer as a child advocate will contribute a great amount towards reducing the number of children who become victims of child abuse each year.
Resources in Illinois
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