The end of summer and the start of a new school year is an exciting time for most children. But for some, the beginning of school could reveal a dark secret when signs of abuse and neglect these children have suffered over the summer are noticed by teachers, staff and other parents.
Last year, schools were the number one source of reports of child abuse and neglect, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which includes Child Protective Services. Last year, CPS completed 35,100 investigations as a result of reports from school officials.
“Because children are subject to less adult supervision over the summer, it’s not uncommon for reports of suspected abuse and neglect to spike at the start of the school year,” said Barb Tucker, CASA of Palo Pinto and Parker Counties’ executive director.
Many of the children who are confirmed as victims of abuse and/or neglect are removed from their homes and placed into foster care — often far from their friends, families and schools. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers are specially screened and trained to speak up for abused and neglected children who, through no fault of their own, end up in the foster care system.
“Being uprooted from their homes and families is scary for these children. The CASA volunteers in Palo Pinto and Parker Counties want to make sure that these children do not get lost in the overburdened foster care system,” Tucker added.
“For that reason, we need more people in our community to speak up and make sure these children’s voices are heard,” Tucker said. “We want to help ensure that their stay in foster care is as short as possible and that they are placed in safe, loving homes quickly so they can begin to heal.”
Currently, there are 295 children in the child protection system in Palo Pinto and Parker counties, and just 102 CASA volunteers to advocate for their best interests.