CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates of Southwestern Illinois — has 80 abused children waiting who need volunteers to be their voices in court.
“This is a time when people from across the country come together to prevent the abuse and neglect of children,” Mechiko White, executive director of CASA, said in reference to April being National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
White said that nationally, more than 70 percent of the children who died as a result of child abuse or neglect are 2 years of age and younger. And, more than 80 percent of them were not old enough to go to kindergarten.
“In Illinois alone in 2015, 74 children died as a result of abuse or neglect. And, more than 110,000 abuse and neglect reports were made in the state of Illinois in 2015,” she said.
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Nationwide, child abuse occurs every 10 seconds. No community is immune. Last year CASA of Southwestern Illinois served 472 children in the three counties,” White said.
The children who have volunteers experience fewer out-of-home placements and have significantly improved educational performance,” White said. And, they spend 7.5 months or less in foster care, she said.
When children are victims of abuse or neglect, studies show they are more likely to struggle in school, have run-ins with law enforcement, be homeless or abuse drugs and alcohol, White said.
“We want individuals to imagine themselves in the places where many of them are. Then we want them to think about how important it is to have a voice, someone the child trusts to speak up for them in court,” she said.
CASA of Southwestern Illinois is a non-profit organization whose mission is to recruit, train, supervise and support volunteers who advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children who are in the court system.
CASA volunteers help reduce “the physical, emotional, intellectual and social impact of child maltreatment,” White said. “Volunteers are critical to CASA. And, while we hope everyday that we can get more people to volunteer on behalf of our children, we’re hoping this month, with the spotlight being on abused and neglected children nationally, we can attract many volunteers.”
To volunteer or get more information about CASA call 618-234-4278, or go to the website www.stclaircasa.com.
Meanwhile, CASA of Southwestern Illinois is honoring business entrepreneur Richard Sauget Sr. with a community service award at the organization’s Ruby Slipper Gala on Saturday.
“Mr. Sauget is being given the award for his support of CASA’s Superhero night with the Gateway Grizzlies that was held in June,” White said.
In addition to his work with the Grizzlies, Sauget is the founder and president of East County Enterprises, Inc. He is dedicated to developing and expanding health care services to low-income families in Southwestern Illinois, and he’s active with many community organizations, said White
Another distinguished member of the community, St. Clair County Juvenile Judge Walter Brandon, is also being recognized by CASA at this event. Brandon is the honorary chair for the Ruby Sipper Gala. As the presiding juvenile court judge for the 20th Judicial Circuit Court in St. Clair County, Brandon works closely with CASA volunteers to determine the best interest of children involved in the juvenile cases.
“CASA’s my eyes and ears. They give me another view of what’s going on,” Brandon said. He described his role in the court system as the “gatekeeper” for juveniles. “Everybody has to work together,” he said.
White said Brandon has the daunting task of restoring safety to abused and neglected children and rebuilding the family unit.
“We’re honoring him as a champion voice for CASA kids,” she said.
Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503