Giving Back: Every child deserves a voice
Published 12:12 am Wednesday, April 13, 2016
LAPLACE — Blue and sliver pinwheels blew in the breeze Monday as local preschool children, St. John the Baptist Parish Government officials and Child Advocacy Service leaders highlighted Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Every April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, but this was the first year Child Advocacy Service put on an awareness event at Thomas F. Daley Memorial Park on U.S. 51.
Lead Advocate Supervisor Jerri Pevey said Child Advocacy Service is made up of court-appointed special advocates who train every day citizens to serve as advocates for children in the welfare system.
“Our advocates are anywhere from doctors to retired homemakers to people who are fulltime employees or students,” Pevey said. “Basically, anyone can volunteer to be an advocate.”
Advocates must be at least 21 years old, pass a background check and go through training.
Children in foster care, according to Pevey, need advocates.
“We are desperate for advocates,” she said. “Every six months that a child has been in foster care, a judge has to make a decision about what is going to happen with their future. Our advocates help provide information to the judge so he or she can make an informed decision.”
Child Advocacy Service volunteers advocate for children newborn until 18, when they can age out of foster care.
In an effort to raise awareness about the role the Child Advocacy Service plays in the healthy development of children, 200 pinwheels were planted at the Thomas F. Daley Memorial Park. Children from Little Leaders Learning Center in Reserve and the St. John Child Development Center Head Start in Garyville planted 80 pinwheels, adding to the 120 set up by organizers.
“The pinwheels represent children served by our agency,” Pevey said. “We’re hoping that by planting the pinwheels in all of the communities that we serve, we will raise awareness of the prevention services that Child Advocacy Services offers. Somebody is going to look at the garden of pinwheels and realize how many children need advocates and how many need children need services and hopefully get in contact with us to see how they can help.”
Advocates don’t get paid for the work they do, Pevey said, adding they do it out of the goodness of their hearts.
“We currently have about 15 kids on a waiting list here in St. John,” Pevey said. “A lot of the kids that come out of those court systems are placed right here in this area so we really need more volunteers.”
Angela Golden, prevention services coordinator, said the organization has done appropriate boundaries work in Fifth Ward and East St. John Elementary schools instructing on how to act with each other and with teachers.
“This year we have seen the attention, the need and the want for prevention services blossom in the community,” she said.