By SELENA SEABROOKS
The Dallas Examiner
In 2021, 199 children died due to child abuse in Texas. Dallas County has the second-highest number of child deaths caused by physical abuse or neglect in the state – with the deaths of 11 children.
However, not all children die from child abuse. There were 6,679 confirmed cases of child abuse in the county. Thousands of children in Dallas County have been removed from their homes due to child abuse and taken to live with another relative, foster care, group homes or therapeutic centers.
Dallas CASA is an organization that advocates for children in the protective care. Established in Seattle in 1979, the organization recruits, trains and supervises community members to be volunteer advocates, court-appointed to children who have been place in care outside of their homes. CASA advocates pave the way for children to grow up in a safe environment where they can thrive.
Since the organization’s inception, they have assisted thousands of children to find safe and permanent homes. Last year, volunteers served 3,113 children in Dallas County.
On April 8, Dallas CASA hosted its annual awareness event to honor Dallas County children who lost their lives to abuse or neglect in 2021. The event included a drive-thru lunch for TDFPS caseworkers and others who work in child welfare. The event featured a pinwheel garden that honored child victims and a clothing display that represented each child that died.
“The purpose of the event is to just bring awareness to child abuse and neglect and children abuse prevention in Dallas County,” Emily Dang of Dallas CASA said. “We do it to bring awareness to the issue of child abuse and child neglect in the community and then we also use it as an opportunity to recognize the child welfare, child CPS welfare workers, as well as other child abuse advocates in the community, and then also honor those maltreatment child fatalities from the previous year.
“Advocates are necessary because they are able to develop and form those relationships with the youth, the children that are in care. They are able to speak to caregivers. They are able to speak to professionals and really help the caseworkers and the attorneys in advocating for these children’s needs.”
In addition, the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services, TexProtects, Family Compass, the United Way of Dallas’ HOPES program, Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center and Community Partners of Dallas assisted in the event.
“Child abuse is preventable and there’s different things that people can do to learn more about child abuse and ways to prevent and how to support families, in order to prevent children from coming into CPS care or from being abused. Even just educating themselves about what child abuse looks like or what ways you can support a family,” Dang expressed.
On May 6, Dallas CASA will host its Cherish the Children luncheon where they will honor WFAA-TV news anchor and Wednesday’s Child host Cynthia Izaguirre with the 2022 Caroline Rose Hunt Cherish the Children Award. All proceeds from the luncheon will benefit the children served by Dallas CASA.
“The purpose of our luncheon, Cherish the Children, is to of course fundraise because you couldn’t do what we do without funds to support our mission, but to also raise awareness in our community about the need for advocates and about the work of our volunteer advocates. It’s a time to gather together to honor someone who’s made an impact in the lives of children in protective care in our community and to celebrate the work we do, raise money and also inform people who don’t know about us, about what we do,” Becca Leonard of Dallas CASA stated.
Leonard went on to explain why Izaguirre was chosen as the honoree.
“Cynthia has been a role model for all of us in the community for how to advocate for children in need. She has hosted Wednesday’s Child weekly on WFAA and that is a profile of a child looking for a forever home. She takes such incredible care of the way she tells their story. We met with her recently and she remembers every child’s story. She knows them. She cares for them. She follows up with them and the families they end up being adopted by. It’s a true passion of hers, and it’s obvious in the work that she does,” Izaguirre stated.
Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall will also be present to engage in an interview with the audience. She and Izaguirre will discuss their personal stories of fostering and adopting.
The event is open to the public and tickets can be purchased at DallasCASA.org. Limited tickets will be available on the day of the event.
For those who would like to get involved with Dallas CASA or become an advocate with the organization, additional information is available on their website https://www.dallascasa.org.