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You can help abused and neglected children

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Washington County is seeking volunteers.

CASA works directly with families and the courts to ensure the needs of the children remain the No. 1 priority.

Many abused children rely on volunteer, adult advocates to help remove them from difficult situations.

These children may be victims of neglect or physical abuse. In other cases, parents may abuse drugs or alcohol and are unable to care for their children.

The organization is offering three informational orientations Thursday, July 7; Wednesday, Aug. 3; and Thursday, Sept. 8, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Beaverton Community Center, 12350 S.W. Fifth St., Suite 100.

During the orientation sessions, participants will learn more about the program, specific child-advocate roles and the process to become a CASA volunteer.

'It's really heartbreaking that hundreds of Washington and Multnomah county children - who were victims of abuse or neglect - are now ending up in the juvenile court system,' said Beaverton City Councilor Betty Bode. 'Through the efforts of CASA volunteers, we can stop this tragic cycle and start making a true difference in these children's lives.'

CASA volunteers visit children regularly; review records; interview parents and relatives; consult with teachers, neighbors and foster care providers; and work closely with community service providers. They advocate for the children and families to help gain them access to needed support and services. In addition, they appear in court to speak up for the child's needs and best interests.

Candy Ohlsen has been a CASA volunteer for more than three years. Her first case involved parents who simply needed someone to step in while they attended anger management classes. In the end, the family was reunited.

'It's so gratifying to become part of these families' lives - to know that when everything else is changing, you're a constant,' Ohlsen said.

When children are at their most vulnerable, CASA volunteers are there for them, added Mayor Dennis Doyle.

'During these difficult times in the children's lives, it's critical that they have people that stand up and fight for them,' he said.

For more information about how to help by becoming a CASA volunteer, visit www.casahelpskids.org .