Tiny hands send out big messageChild Abuse Awareness Month to be noted at Davison County Courthouse.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
The outlines of tiny hands will be in evidence once again at the Davison County Courthouse this April as part of “Hands Around the Courthouse.”
The annual event’s dual purpose is to remind the public that April is “Child Abuse Awareness Month” and that Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is playing its part locally to help prevent child abuse.
Mike Dittmer, program manager for First Circuit CASA, said the hand silhouette posters, which will go up in the courthouse lobby April 1, will be drawn and colored by first- and second-graders from Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School.
First Circuit CASA is part of a national CASA network that began in Washington state in the 1970s. It was introduced in Mitchell in 2001 by the Davison County Child Protection Team, Dittmer said.
Mitchell Area CASA now represents children in Aurora, Davison, Douglas, Hanson, Hutchinson and McCook counties. The program served 66 children in 2012, and 40 so far in 2013.
CASA volunteers, Dittmer said, are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes.
The kids helped by CASA volunteers are often trapped by the complex problems created by parents who have legal problems that affect the entire family.
People frequently confuse CASA with Social Services, which assigns multiple clients to a single caseworker, said Dittmer, but a CASA volunteer is assigned to work with just one child.
“A CASA volunteer is often the one adult constant in a child’s life,” Dittmer said. “The volunteer will interview the family, talk to the child and find out what the child wants.”
After receiving a required 30 hours of training, each volunteer is certified by a judge as an officer of the court. Their reports are made to the court on the child’s behalf. Decisions on a child’s welfare are made by the judge after weighing those recommendations. “We currently have 18 volunteers but we can always use more,” Dittmer said.
The next two-part training session will take place March 8-9 and March 22-23. CASA is a private, nonprofit organization that receives funding through private donations, locally through United Way, and through other grants.
On April 15, in conjunction with Child Abuse Awareness month, CASA will sell popcorn balls to support its programs. Supporters are asked to order by April 10.
CASA’s “Baskets of Hope” luncheon, a popular auction fundraiser, will be held at 11:30 a.m. April 20 at the Mitchell Moose Lodge, 516 W. 15th Ave.
More information on CASA is available at 996-1212.