WAXAHACHIE — Several studies and departmental data sheets show child abuse is all too prevalent in America with a child suffering from abuse or neglect every nine minutes.

To commemorate those children and their families, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Ellis County, in partnership with The Avenue Church and Interchange, is inviting the Ellis County community to the third annual Candlelight Vigil for Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The vigil is scheduled for Thursday, April 20 at 8 p.m. by the pond at The Avenue Church, located at 1761 N. Hwy 77 in Waxahachie. In the event of rain, the vigil will be moved to under the patio awning.

“We are grateful to the community for helping us commemorate the children who are victims of neglect and abuse each year,” stated Rhodie Rawls, Executive Director of CASA of Ellis County. “In 2016, there were 58,664 confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect in Texas, and 398 of those children were confirmed victims right here in Ellis County."

Statewide child abuse and neglect totals for Texas are staggering. The Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) reports that a child somewhere in Texas becomes a victim of abuse or neglect every nine minutes. Of the approximately 160 children abused or neglected on a daily basis, DFPS reports 54 percent of victims are under the age of six years old.

“Each year, CASA of Ellis County serves approximately 150 children who have been removed from their homes by Child Protective Services. With 75 volunteers, we are able to provide advocacy for permanency, educational, health and emotional needs of these children to make sure they are moving toward a forever home,” Rawls stated. “We are excited to have 10 new registrants for our next volunteer training sessions which start this month, with additional volunteer training sessions coming in the fall.

“We are proud to be one of the few CASA programs nationwide that serve 100 percent of the children in their county that have been removed by CPS, and we know that we couldn’t do that without our dedicated volunteer base."

CASA of Ellis County provides trained community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children who are in the foster care system. CASA volunteers must complete thirty hours of initial training, with additional courtroom observation and extensive background checks and fingerprinting. Only then are the advocates able to serve as a voice for the children by attending court hearings and making reports to Judge Jim Chapman on the child’s well-being and permanent placement.

For information on the Candlelight Vigil, or becoming a CASA volunteer, call 972-937-1455 or visit www.casaofelliscounty.org.