By: Sarah Snyder
Here in West Texas the number of child abuse cases is being described as "horrendous." Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, or CASA, says they've got almost 200 pending cases. Most of the children are even too young to even begin school.
"Right now we're seeing a lot of domestic violence and as a result, the injuries could be anything from cigarette burns on them to head injuries," Lily White, Executive Director of CASA West Texas said. "They are very severe and it's life threatening to these children."
CASA says the number of cases is through the roof. Right now, the bulk of them center around children ages 5 and under.
"The number of children being abused has increased so much we can't keep up with this pace," White said. "So, no, we haven't had this problem before especially here in Midland."
CASA uses volunteers to spend time with each child, get to know them, then represent them when they appear in court. But a huge drop in volunteers has left the organization desperate for help.
"We may be faced with a decision to not take all the cases," White said. "Right now we're taking 100% but we may have to cut that down if we don't have enough volunteers to take the caseload we're seeing."
That means some kids will be left without an advocate.
"These cases are pretty horrendous," White said. "We served close to 400 kids last year, we're already halfway there this year. There's a tremendous need for volunteers to step up."
But on Wednesday in Big Spring - they found one more. Cynthia was sworn in at the Howard County Courthouse. She'll be working with kids on a one on one basis helping them through the process of testifying in court.
"The common goal is to find a permanent, safe, and nurturing environment for the child," Howard Co. Volunteer, Cynthia Breyman, said. "What you're doing is helping those who can't help themselves."
Her decision to get involved started while she worked as a school teacher. A child told her she saw her father commit suicide and from then on it was Cynthia's goal to help West Texas children in crisis.
"This young lady touched my heart, as I reached out to her in her time of need because she became depressed and wanted to take her life," Breyman said. "I was able to get her to counseling and that stuck with me all these years."
"Everyone can make a difference and that's what we're asking the community to do," White said.
The director tells NewsWest 9, anyone can get involved. After a background check and a 30 hour training course, volunteers typically give about 12 hours each month.