CASA of East TN: ‘We are in the middle of a major crisis for these children,’ amid COVID-19 pandemic

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(WATE)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — April is National Child Abuse Prevention month and there are several nonprofits in the area dedicated to children’s advocacy, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Everyday we share with you ways so many in the community are rising to the challenge during the coronavirus pandemic. For nonprofits in East Tennessee, their mission isn’t stopping.

More: Tracking Coronavirus

A courtroom can be a scary place, that’s why CASA of East Tennessee has advocates who build relationships with little ones caught up in cases involving child abuse and neglect.

“And so it’s a safe place for these children to share some of the things that may be going on in their home,” Ada Hernandez-Bell, executive director of CASA of East Tennessee, said.

Things are different right now for advocates and this organization because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are in the middle of a major crisis for these children having that limited contact, having limited safe people, having limited resources for families just put these children, this vulnerable population at a much higher risk and that’s very scary,” Hernandez-Bell explained.

Currently, CASA advocates are working remotely, using FaceTime or Zoom to connect with their kids.

“We’re trying to be as involved and invested in them during this current situation especially since there’s not as many eyes and ears on these children as we typically would like,” said Hernandez-Bell.

She says emergency cases are still being heard in court, but there are concerns that the stress of this pandemic may lead to more abuse, “When courts do open, hopefully in May, there is going to be a two-month log of children who have been waiting to have their cases heard and that is going to increase our need for volunteers and advocates in our community.”

The last few weeks have been heavy on the hearts of those who take care of kids but there are glimmers of hope.

“Knoxville has really come together to do the best with what we have right now and that is wonderful to see,” Hernandez-Bell said.

How you can help CASA of East TN

If you’re wanting to help children, you can sign up to be a CASA volunteer. The next volunteer training session is happening virtually through video conferencing starting Monday, May 4th. You can apply by clicking here.

If you would like to make a financial donation to help children receiving care through CASA of East Tennessee, you can do so by clicking here.

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