April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Few people understand the child abuse problem as well as Court Appointed Special Advocates, otherwise known as CASA's. But, what CASA's do for children is not well known by the public they serve.
Five years ago, Valerie Cannon had no idea what a Court Appointed Special Advocate was. Today, she is one. She volunteers her time to fight for the legal rights of abused children.
"I believe that a parent should have the privledge of parenting their child. But, if they don't parent, somebody needs to."
As a CASA, Valerie's role is to find out everything about the child's life to make a decision for his or her future. Many times, that includes heart wrenching tales of violence. "It takes me about 24 hours to get over, kind of the anger of what happened, because you can't do effective work if you're angry. It doesn't fit in. So, after about 24 hours, I'm ready to be a CASA again and work."
CASA volunteers like Valerie help thousands of kids each year. CASA for Kids of East Texas is currently working on 300 cases in local courts. Pam McGee surpervises many of Valerie's cases. "They're sitting in the schools right next to your children. They're walking past you in the mall. And, it happens in great numbers. And, so, someone has to speak for these children."
In the end, the reccomendations Valerie makes to a judge could reunite children with their parents, or sever that link forever, opening the door for a new home and a new family. Whatever the final decision, Valerie believes she can help remove the monsters, one nightmare at a time.
CASA's annual fundraiser, the Justice is Served Dinner happens this Saturday night. Doors open at 6:30 at the Harvey Convention Center in Tyler. Tickets are still available. They're $40 per person, or $300 for a table of eight.