Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:

Each year, approximately 30,000 incidents of child abuse, neglect or abandonment are reported in Arizona alone. Of those, more than 6,700 children end up in the foster care system. Unfortunately, many of these children do not have the benefit of a citizen's voice in the courtroom, speaking for their best interests. Without a voice, these children can slip through the cracks of our social service and judicial systems. These children, abused and neglected by those they trust the most, can be victimized a second time by the systems that have been ostensibly created to protect them.

April is Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, which is dedicated to raising public awareness about child abuse and to involving concerned citizens in the plight of abused children. As this important month approaches, the Arizona Supreme Court Dependent Children's Services Division is seeking citizens willing to get involved as volunteers to advocate in the 'best interest of the child."

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers are community members who are specially screened and trained to advocate for the best interests of children involved in the juvenile court system because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. A CASA volunteer gathers information and acts as the "eyes and ears" of the court on behalf of the child. The CASA volunteer assists the judge by providing important information regarding abused and neglected children.

The Foster Care Review Board (FCRB) program was established by the legislature in 1978. The boards assist the juvenile courts with reviewing the cases of children who reside in out-of home placements and make recommendations for consideration by the juvenile court judge. Currently, there are over 430 volunteers serving as FCRB members throughout the state. There are 86 review boards statewide with 43 of those boards currently active in Maricopa County, 20 in Pima County, and at least one board in each of the other 13 counties.

If you would like fliers or brochures on FCRB, please contact 602/542-9683 or email to Clopez@supreme. sp. state. az.us. For additional information on the CASA program, contact Diana Ryan, Apache County CASA Program coordinator at 337-3552 or Irene Klim, Navajo County CASA Program coordinator at 524-4135.

The ultimate goal of our volunteers is to find a safe and permanent home for each abused child. Thank you for cooperation.

Sincerely,

Connie Lopez

Phoenix

Community Outreach Specialist

Dependent Children's Services Division

Arizona Supreme Court

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