MESA COUNTY, Colo. Our area is home to far too many children who face child abuse and neglect in their homes. Now the Mesa County Commissioners are taking a step to curb the problem and bring awareness to those who may not know how big of an issue it is.
Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, asked the Commissioners to recognize the child abuse that happens right in our backyard. They listened and in a meeting Monday proclaimed April as Child Abuse Awareness Month.
Dorothy Rinderle has been volunteering with CASA for the last 17 years. The organization helps children who have been abused or neglected. Volunteers like Rinderle are assigned to a child for a minimum of one year and not only are they their voice in court, but also focus their energy on helping the kids have a better life and they can see the change.
"How they have developed and grown and how productive they are and how happy they are so that makes me feel good," Rinderle.
Although the end result is something to be happy about officials at CASA said dependency and neglect cases have increased significantly over the last couple of years. Neglect is when parents don't provide care for their children whether it be medical, supervision, food or clothing. Case loads are growing, but when asked why officials said they just don't know.
"No one really can quite put their finger on it and what's even more alarming is these are younger children and the abuse seems to be more severe," Janet Rowland, CASA Director.
Rowland said they see the most abuse affecting kids under the age of five and even more children three and younger. The devastating impact abuse can have is why CASA volunteers take their cases very seriously and treat the children as if they are their own.
CASA officials said ideally they want the children's family's to be raising them so they give parents opportunities to learn how to better care for their kids. Most of the kids that come through CASA are eventually reunited with their families.