Don’t you just know the Dallas CASA team is doing double high-fives. Thanks to two recent developments, Dallas CASA will be better able to assist young victims of sex trafficking.
First, Gov. Greg Abbott’s office provided a $61,000 grant “to create a pilot training program that will educate Dallas CASA volunteers on advocating for victims of human sec trafficking, a growing threat to the safety of children and teens.”
The governor’s office received the monies from the federally-funded Victims of Crime Act. But even before getting the grant, Dallas CASA had already “begun work on developing the training and will collaborate with California-based Saving Innocence to create a customized curriculum especially for CASA volunteers, who are appointed by the courts to represent the best interest of children who have been removed from home due to abuse or neglect.”
According to the governor’s Child Sex Trafficking Team Director Andrea Sparks, “Dallas CASA is leading the way for the CASA network by piloting this enhanced advocacy program for commercially sexually-exploited youth.”
Another reason for the Dallas CASA to be celebrating is due to Good Pitch Local that “brings together documentary filmmakers, foundations, non-governmental agencies, philanthropists and others to forge coalitions and campaigns that are good for society.” In the case of Dallas CASA, Good Pitch Local has provided funding “to create a trafficking video illustrating what sex trafficking is and how it occurs.”
Like the governor’s grant, this project will help Dallas CASA volunteers advocate for youngsters.
According to Dallas CASA President/CEO Kathleen LaValle, “The relationship developed between children and their CASA volunteers is one of trust, respect and honesty, uniquely situating the CASA volunteer to recognize when a teen has been trafficked or is at a high risk of becoming a victim. For many teenagers, in foster care, home was a difficult place. When someone shows them ‘love and affection’ and offers them freedom from rigid rules, they may not recognized the danger.”
In the past, Dallas CASA volunteers had to complete 30 hours of training before being sworn in by the courts as an advocate. For Dallas CASA volunteers interested in assisting those victims of sex trafficking, the new specialized training would be an additional 12 hours.
This past July, of the 2,247 children served by Dallas CASA, 587 were between the ages of 12 and 21.
As Dallas CASA’s Partnerships and Projects Program Director Chad Frymire said, “Our hope is that this important training program will make a difference for children across Texas. Once we train Dallas CASA volunteers and refine the program, we plan to offer the program to other CASA programs across the state.”
Graphic/photo provided by Dallas CASA