The Waxahachie branch of the Court Appointed Special Advocate foundation joined in the park of the Avenue Church for a candlelight service to proclaim April as Child Awareness and Prevention month. Thursday marked the fourth annual candlelight service to bring awareness to the community.

“This is an event to give the community a chance to have an awareness of child abuse by proclaiming April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month," CASA Executive Director Rhodie Rawls said. "We, through this service, want to bring to the community the staggering number of child abuse cases that happen here in Ellis County."

Joining the many Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers and community members in attendance this year was the motorcycle club, Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA).

“We work as volunteers and alongside CASA volunteers to support the children,” one BACA member said

Beginning the service, Ellis County Court of Law One Judge Jim Chapman read the proclamation to officially declare April as Child Awareness Abuse month.

”Whereas, in the Federal fiscal year 2017, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services confirmed 62,657 victims of child abuse or neglect, including 372 in Ellis County, 172 child deaths and two in Ellis County," Chapman read. "Whereas child abuse and neglect is a serious problem affecting every segment of our community. And, finding solutions requires input and action from everyone in our community."

He continued, “[...] Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, loving permanent home where their physical, emotional and educational needs are fully met by giving a child an opportunity to realize his or her full potential."

After reading the proclamation, Chapman added, “I often interview the children in my chambers. Every one of them is very complimentary of the CASA volunteers.”

“We are always looking for volunteers," Rhodes said. "The babies and very young are easier to place. But we are seeing a growing need to place older children and teenagers. They need an advocate and a safe place to live as much as the young ones. Their needs are different but needed."

Rhodes added, “My dream is that someday we have volunteers waiting for children — not children waiting for volunteers to take them into their home."