FAIRBURY – April is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month, and Southeast Nebraska CASA is challenging residents of Jefferson County and the surrounding area to take a stand against child abuse.
In 2018, 24 children in Jefferson County were removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, according to a press release from the Seward-based non-profit.
While that number has come down in 2019, there are still eight kids in Jefferson County who don’t have anyone serving them or advocating for them, according to Southeast Nebraska CASA program director Don Cook.
Cook says April is all about raising public awareness, and some extra donations.
“We need help with donations to support the program,” Cook said, “because it costs us to train the volunteers to be court appointed special advocates for children.”
The program serves children in Jefferson, Thayer, Seward, Saline and Gage Counties. While there are 23 volunteers serving 35 children in that coverage area, Cook says there are currently only two court-appointed volunteers in Jefferson County – with eight kids who still need a volunteer to help them.
Southeast Nebraska CASA recently held special advocate training in Fairbury a little over a month ago. Cook says more training sessions are likely coming, but he wants to use this month to make people aware of the need.
“Right now, we just want to get that out to the public,” he said.
Once appointed by their local court, a CASA volunteer’s job is to look out for the best interests of the child.
“They actually go out and visit the child at least two hours every month, and they do an independent investigation to make sure everything is being done in the best interest of the child,” Cook said in a January interview.
Southeast Nebraska CASA is part of a nationwide network that serves more than 280-thousand abused or neglected children in more than one-thousand communities.
CASA has been located in southeast Nebraska for the last 21 years, with the main office being located in Seward. There are currently 21 CASA programs serving 43 counties in Nebraska.
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