Awareness Vigil set for Monday highlights need for more volunteers to help children
Published 12:38 am Thursday, March 30, 2023
BEAUMONT — More than 180 Texas children died in the last year due to child abuse and neglect — four of them from Jefferson County.
Those children will be honored during a child abuse awareness candlelight vigil at 7 a.m. Monday at 2449 Calder Avenue in Beaumont.
Court Appointed Special Advocates of Southeast Texas (CASA) sponsors the event. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and there will be similar vigils across the state.
Brittany Delagarza, CASA Resource & Development Coordinator, said the vigil would include a butterfly release symbolizing the children. There will also be a speaker and crosses will be out in front of the building to represent those who have died in the state.
There is a need for CASA volunteers.
Delagarza said the children in the Child Protective Services system need these trained volunteers to represent their best interests.
As of this year there are 81 active volunteers.
“We are in need of more to complete our program,” Delagarza said.
CASA Volunteer Training Coordinator Shadye Nolan-Vaughns explained the process to become a volunteer and be a voice for the children.
Nolan-Vaughns said if someone is interested they can go to casasetx.org and fill out an application. The organization will then schedule an interview.
A major issue is making sure the children are safe, Nolan-Vaughns said, adding a background check is performed.
If all is well then the individual will go through five weeks of training.
“It may sound like a lot but this is a vulnerable population and we have to make sure the kids are safe and do what’s best for them,” Nolan-Vaughns said.
The final step to being sworn in as a CASA volunteer by a judge in the family court.
“Once a month our volunteers visit with the child to make sure the child is healthy, happy and has what they need,” she said. “We also advocate educationally and medically.”
For example, if a child needs a form of therapy, this is brought to the judge’s attention in the courtroom.
“We are big voices for little Texans,” she said, adding the volunteers are there to represent the child so the child is not there alone with just lawyers.
Locally, CASA of Southeast Texas has served 379 children in the foster care system in Jefferson County in 2022.
Annual Justice is Served Gala
The nonprofit organization will hold its annual Justice is Served Gala at 7 p.m. April 29 at The Neches Room in Beaumont. For sponsorship and tickets call Brittany Delagarza at 409-832-2272.