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Child advocates prepare for an increase in cases

Posted at 9:08 PM, Jul 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-17 21:08:08-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Volunteers who are willing to serve as the voice for abused and neglected children in our community are needed right now.

The need comes as advocates worry the number of child abuse reports in Indiana will increase as children head back to school and teachers once again report abuse.

Child Advocates is the court appointed special advocate program here in Marion County. Each year, they handle about 7,000 cases involving children who have been abused or neglected. Right now, they have a critical need for volunteers as they prepare for an influx of cases.

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"You can just do the bare minimum, make a huge impact on a child's life," Jennifer Hisgen, volunteer CASA with Child Advocates, said. "Every month, meet with the child, make sure they are safe."

Six hours of volunteer work a month is all that is required to volunteer as a court appointed special advocate or CASA with Child Advocates. It's work Hisgen started four years ago when she retired from the military.

"I like being part of the team to try to make that child's life better or even the family's life better," Hisgen said.

Hisgen visits children at home, meets with caseworkers, interviews parents all to help the judge make a decision about what's in the child's best interest.

"I am a huge believer that the judge can only make the best decision if they hear all sides," Hisgen said. "If it wasn't for Child Advocates she would not hear that side of a child."

"We want to make sure that they are actually telling the children's story and the child feels they have someone they can talk to," Chris Mundy, volunteer director of training for Child Advocates, said. "Their opinion matters, what they think matters, their emotions matter."

According to the Department of Child Services, in May 2020 there were more than 14,000 calls to the child abuse hotline. That's compared to more than 22,000 in May 2019 and is the largest year-to-year decrease. With children returning to school soon, those numbers are expected to increase, which is why CASA volunteers are needed.

"This is just one way I can give back," Hisgen said. "And, hopefully I'm helping."

Volunteer training is virtual and there are three sessions this month — July 18 at 9:30 a.m.; July 25 at 9:30 a.m.; July 28 at 11:30 a.m.

In the state of Indiana, every adult is a mandated reporter. The free, anonymous hotline number is 800-800-5556.

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