By Lauren Westerberg, Chief Program Officer for CASA of the South Plains and South Plains Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention member
Each year, CASA of the South Plains serves approximately 40% of children in the foster care system. Despite steady growth in our staff and volunteer numbers, we simply can’t keep up with the demand and high rates of child abuse and neglect here in our community.
To bring light to this issue, the South Plains Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention (SPCCAP) started the Go Blue Lubbock initiative six years ago. In partnerships with the Lubbock Area United Way and the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, Go Blue Lubbock has since grown into a community-wide project that takes place each April to promote child abuse awareness and prevention.
After almost twelve years of work within the child welfare system, I have seen and heard things many people cannot imagine. Stories like those of Abby and Ethan, young siblings who were caught in domestic violence that resulted in not only physical injuries to them, but in the death of their mother. Sofia is the 2nd grader who described to me what cocaine looked like as though it was a normal thing for an 8-year-old to know. Aliyah is 16 and has incredible difficulty forming a trusting relationship with any adult because of the prolonged sexual abuse she experienced from someone who was supposed to take care of her.
Yet, I have seen something else too. Something that brings hope to these seemingly hopeless stories. I’ve seen CPS caseworkers and CASA volunteers working together, meeting late into the evening, to review case history and figure out how to make sure Abby and Ethan get placed with a family who can bring stability and healing. I’ve worked with a mother who accepted the help of the local court system and engaged in treatment and services—from local providers—and I watched her use her new support system to make changes in her life so Sofia could return home safely. There are counselors, teachers and mentors investing time and love into Aliyah and helping her see there are adults who care and can be trusted. Our community agencies are cross-training, collaborating, and making referrals to ensure no need goes unmet. There are coalition meetings and groups of women uniting in force to drive change. Our city and government officials are actively engaging in this community they serve and championing the cause.
These hope-inspiring movements don’t happen in isolation. There are countless people involved in every success and change throughout our community and the ripple effects from each person’s actions are profound. The needle on child abuse is moving in Lubbock and it’s thanks to the deep-seated partnerships and relationships in this community. It’s thanks to the investment the people in our community—you—have in seeing Lubbock be a place where children are safe, loved, nurtured, and protected. Although April is when we highlight Go Blue, the work to raise awareness and prevent child abuse and neglect is ongoing. I hope you’ll Go Blue with us this month and then find a way to get involved and stay blue!