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Group raising awareness about area child abuse

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AMARILLO - The number of abused or neglected children in the panhandle is on the rise, but an area organization is doing all they can to stop it.

Within the last year Gray County alone saw 111 confirmed cases of child abuse, and the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for the High Plains says there are likely many more that went unreported.

CASA and the Gray County Child Welfare Board held an awareness event Sunday in Pampa to spread the word about a growing problem. 

"Unfortunately, we've just seen a steady increase of confirmed victims over the last several years," CASA Executive Director Janet Watts said.

Just last year, CASA volunteers helped out 209 children in the eastern panhandle who suffered from neglect, or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.

"I've been working in the child abuse field for 18 years and I really thought that I had seen everything imaginable that parents can do to their kids," Watts said. "But in the last year and a half, I've had to say, I hadn't seen it all."

Today's event was meant to provide a visual representation of how many young victims there are in Gray County, but the group couldn't find enough children to participate.

Still, dozens of kids filed onto the harvester football field as local musician Matt Martindale and his daughters sang an emotional song about child abuse.

Proceeds from iTunes purchases of the song, Hear Them Cry by J.T. Simpson, go to child abuse awareness charities.

"These things happen to children. We all need to be aware of it, and don't be afraid to report it," Martindale said.

Martindale is a lawyer and often represents foster children that come from abusive, unstable homes. He says the best way you can help these children is to become a CASA volunteer.

"I work everyday with CASA volunteers, and they're just amazing. I mean obviously the word volunteer says a lot," Martindale said.

Becoming a CASA volunteer takes 30 hours of training, and lots of paperwork, but most say the difference made in a child's life makes it all worth it.

"CASA is one of those places that we would love to work ourselves out of a job, but unfortunately we just see the need for our services growing," Watts said.  

 

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