Chattahoochee CASA cares for kids

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comApril 8, 2014 

Larry Gierer lgierer@ledger-enquirer.com Rosalind Alston is the CASA program coordinator.

Rosalind Alston says every child deserves to grow up in a home where their basic needs -- physical and emotional -- are provided by their caregivers.

Unfortunately, many don't.

Alston is the program coordinator for Chattahoochee Court Appointed Special Advocates, which works to make sure children are in a home where they are nurtured and can flourish to their fullest potential.

"April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month, and we want people to be aware of this great problem," Alston said. "Child abuse is preventable, but it needs to be a community wide effort."

Alston said child abuse and neglect affects more than 640,000 children across the United States and 40,000 children in Georgia.

She said 1,278 local children were involved in investigations by the Muscogee Department of Family and Children Services during the 2013 fiscal year with 377 children being removed from their caregiver and ordered into foster care to ensure their safety.

Chattahoochee CASA is a community program of Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services. Its financing comes from grants, the United Way and donations.

On April 19, the CASA Superhero 5K Run fundraiser will be held in downtown Columbus. It is the second year for the event, which also features a 1K fun run/walk. Participants are encouraged to dress as their favorite superhero, and there will be a costume contest.

"Every child needs a hero, but abused children need superheroes," Alston said.

There will be many other family activities that Saturday.

The 1K begins at 8:30 a.m. and the 5K at 9 a.m. Registration for the 5K is $25 until April 13 then $30. To register, visit www.active.com or call 327-9612 extension 1506 or 1507.

CASA recruits, trains and supervises volunteers who serve as a voice for abused and neglected children as they navigate through the court system. They are community members appointed by a judge to advocate on a one-on-one basis for children in need of care.

Alston said Chattahoochee CASA has about 65 volunteers, the oldest being around 84 and the youngest 23. CASA volunteers go through a thorough background check and get 40 hours of training.

"Among our volunteers we have graduate students, retired nurses and professors," Alston said.

She said that many children are taken from homes not because of physical or sexual abuse but because of neglect.

"Some houses are beyond filthy," Alston said. "There are houses where open medicine bottles are left on tables where children can get them. Drug paraphernalia might be present. Razor blades can be easily reached. There are exposed extension cords and floor heaters which are not covered," she said.

She gave the example of a child being accidently burned and the parents, showing a lack of knowledge and not understanding the severity, waiting days before taking her to the doctor.

CASA watches kids who have already been placed in foster homes. Workers want to make sure the fit is right. Is a particular home the proper place for the child?

One child was placed with a strict religious family which had him in church every night. "He could not do his homework. The situation was not congruent with the child's spiritual practices. It was not part of the child's belief system," she said.

A CASA volunteer must work well with children and parents.

"No matter where the child ends up, we want it to be a happy ending," she said.

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