The Ellis County Children’s Advocacy Center (ECCAC) and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Ellis County are united to help promote April as National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. Although the two organizations see children that come onto their caseload for different reasons, these nonprofits are doing everything they can to make the public aware of child abuse victims in their own community.
The Center works in partnership with law enforcement, Child Protective Services, and the County and District Attorney’s Office by providing a multidisciplinary team response to child abuse cases. The center provides forensic interviews for children who have potentially been a victim of child abuse or sexual assault, are a witness of abuse, or who have been involved with a violent crime or child death. ECCAC Executive Director Leslie Deen stated, “Last year, 341 children were provided forensic interview services. The ECCAC also helped 256 families in 2019 by helping families connect with 2,398 services, the greatest demand for which is mental health serves. In our mission to provide justice, hope and healing to children and their families through a collaborative response to child abuse, including awareness, prevention and protection, the ECCAC provided over 694 therapy sessions free of charge to Ellis County children and their families.”
While there is some crossover with children served by the ECCAC and CASA, CASA of Ellis County is assigned by Ellis County Court at Law #1 Judge Jim Chapman to children who have been removed from their homes by CPS. As parents are addressing those safety concerns cited by CPS, children are either placed with relatives or in foster homes. With a volunteer advocate base of 70, CASA staff assigns one volunteer to work with children from one family to best advocate for developmental, educational, social, psychological, medical and emotional needs the children may have. CASA of Ellis County Executive Director Rhodie Rawls commented, “We served 104 children in 2019. The beauty of the CASA model is to have one volunteer work one case. However, we are fortunate to have six married couples that take on cases together so they can provide positive role models for children.” Rawls added, “To mirror the average time the State gives parents to alleviate safety concerns, we also ask for a one-year commitment from our volunteers so they really get to know the children on their cases and can better advocate for ongoing needs and permanent placement when the case is dismissed.”
Deen and Rawls are teaming up to help promote April as National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month by encouraging Ellis County citizens to report any suspected child abuse or neglect by calling the anonymous Texas Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400. Information has also been distributed through the school districts and church groups in Ellis County. “Our biggest concern right now is that there will be an uptick in child abuse victims due to isolation of the current pandemic,” Deen stated. Rawls commented, “Everyone needs to do their part to be vigilant and ensure that every child in Ellis County has someone looking out for their best interest. I would encourage every school, church and other nonprofit to check on folks through video and phone calls and report any suspicions that they may have regarding our littlest members of our community.”
To find out more about ECCAC and the justice, hope and healing services provided, visit elliscountycac.org. For more details on becoming a CASA volunteer advocate or other non-advocate ways in which you can help be a voice for a child in need, visit www.casaofelliscounty.org.