Advocates for child abuse victims raise awareness, funding - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Advocates for child abuse victims raise awareness, funding in Longview

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LONGVIEW (KYTX) -- As we head into April and child abuse prevention month, hundreds of people in Longview are showing their support for the people who fight for abuse victims in court. Tonight, they held a fundraiser in Longview for those advocates. CBS 19'S Abby Broyles was there and shows us what they do.

More than 300 child abuse cases will go before a Gregg County court this year, and it's easy for the children to get lost in the legal shuffle.

That's why volunteers called court appointed special advocates provide a voice for them.

"The volunteers go to court with children that have been removed from their homes as a result of abuse or neglect, and they present to the court what is in their best interest," East Texas CASA board president Kristen Ishihara said.

Volunteers meet with the children once a month.

"And that's to check if the child is safe, if the placement is appropriate, if there's anything going on that you should be aware of, or the court should be aware of," Ishihara said.

And it's their job to tell a judge their opinion. That could determine whether the kids go to back to their parents or parental rights are removed.

"I see them on every CPS case I handle," 124th District Judge Alfonso Charles said.

Charles says CASA volunteers are vital in helping him make his decisions in CPS cases.

"They play an invaluable service because sometimes lawyers, we get caught up in the legalities and it's nice to have someone there to make sure we stay focused on that child," Charles said.

But volunteers are hard to by - only 50% of CPS cases in Gregg County have a CASA volunteer.

Saturday's night event in Longview was geared toward raising awareness and funding to help more neglected kids in East Texas.

Because often that CASA volunteer is the one consistency a child will have through a long judicial process.

"We really try hard to make the CASA volunteer the one person that stays the same," Ishihara said.

CASA leaders tell us child neglect cases can vary from kids whose parents are involved with drugs and alcohol to child abandonment.

For more information on East Texas CASA and how you can help, visit www.easttexascasa.org

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