April, as we've been telling you over the past few weeks, is National Child Abuse Prevention month.
An advocates program here in Tri-Cities is in need of more volunteers to help abused and neglected children.
"I had thought about it before but I was always very concerned I would get my heart broken so I kind of put it on the back burner," said Peggy Hevland, a CASA volunteer.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates.
About a year ago, Hevland and her husband Mark Hevland, both PNNL retirees, became CASA volunteers.
They are the voice for abused and neglected children throughout Benton and Franklin counties.
The advocates spend one-on-one time with the children who are often in foster care and their parents who are either struggling with drug abuse or financial hardships that are getting in the way of good parenting.
The Hevlands try to help the families; they also write up reports presented in court to let the judge know about any progress which is being made.
Their overall goal?
"Best outcome for the child, to make sure that child has all the advantages of growing up in a stable and safe home environment so that they can be successful as adults," said Mr. Hevland.
The Hevlands are two of more than 80 volunteers and case managers say that's a pretty decent number but in dealing with more than 240 cases and new cases constantly coming in, there is a strong demand for more volunteers.
CASA estimates volunteers work work about 10 hours a month, give or take, depending on the case.
Due to the connection developed between volunteers and the families, they ask that volunteers stay on the case until the child is in a safe, loving and permanent home, which can take about two years.
The Hevlands say witnessing the transformation in these children's lives is rewarding.
"The children that we've come in contact with have really thrived," said Mrs. Hevland.
"They're a treat, they really are. It's fun to watch them mature, it's fun to watch them grow and become children again in some cases," said Mr. Hevland.
If you are interested in becoming a CASA volunteer, training sessions take place only a few times a year and the next one begins this Friday.
The free three-day session will take place on May 2nd, May 9th and May 17th from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
In order to attend, you must first do a short interview with CASA Case Manager Tikva Glantz.
Her phone number is (509) 222-2302 or email her at email@example.com.
The interview must be done tomorrow or the day after.
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