During National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, Front Range CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) challenges residents to stand against child abuse and take action to support children who have been abused or neglected.

A report of child abuse in the U.S. is made every 10 seconds. Every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children. The U.S. has one of the worst records. Any time a child is abused or neglected, it is a tragedy — one that all too often scars victims for a lifetime.

In 2017, state agencies estimated 1,720 children died as a result of abuse and neglect. We must act to prevent the children who die every day from abuse and neglect. More than 70 percent of the children who died as a result of child abuse or neglect were 2 years of age or younger. More than 80 percent were not yet old enough for kindergarten. An estimated one in four children has experienced abuse or neglect at some point in their lives. Looking at these sobering statistics is overwhelming and you ask yourself, “What can I possibly do to make a difference?” The answer is, you can do a lot. Everybody can play a role in preventing child abuse and neglect by becoming advocates for children.

Studies have shown that children who have suffered abuse or neglect are more likely to struggle in school, have run-ins with law enforcement, experience homelessness or abuse drugs or alcohol. Children who experience abuse and neglect are also at an increased risk for negative health consequences and certain chronic diseases as adults.

CASA volunteers stand up for abused and neglected children, giving them a voice in an overburdened child welfare system that is hard-pressed to meet their individual needs. A CASA volunteer’s intense advocacy can break the cycle of abuse and neglect.

Children with CASA volunteers find safe, permanent homes more quickly, are half as likely to re-enter the foster care system and do better in school. That’s making a profound difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of abused and neglected children across the country.

During National Child Abuse Awareness Month, CASA invites residents in area communities to learn more about the work they do and asks them to consider becoming a CASA volunteer. CASA will hold a training this summer for those interested. To learn more about Front Range CASA visit our website at www.frontrangecasa.org.

Not everyone can be a CASA volunteer, but everyone can be an advocate by taking steps to make our communities safer for our children.

•Be mindful of the signs of abuse and neglect in children, such as lack of adult supervision, extreme passivity or aggression or poor hygiene.

•Be aware of warning signs in parents, such as showing indifference or rarely touching or looking at their child, constant verbal criticism, demands for perfection, blaming child for family problems or other irrational behaviors.

•If you think a child is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate. Call 911.

•Donate to an agency that helps children who have been abused or neglected.

•Educate yourself and others about the devastating toll that abuse and neglect take on children and on our society as a whole.

• Keep our state’s toll-free child abuse hotline number close at hand, 1-866-820-5437. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you can report your suspicions confidentially.

Your advocacy for children will not only help end child abuse, it will improve our communities for everyone who lives here. When we work together to protect vulnerable children, it saves lives. Working together, we can end abuse and neglect so that every child has a chance to thrive.

We all have a role to play. What will yours be?

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Kiersta Sullivan is the executive director of the Front Range CASA/GAL Inc. and can be reached at P.O. Box 954, Conrad, MT 59422, 406-576-7041 or frontrangecasa@3rivers.net.