COLORADO SPRINGS — April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and a Colorado Springs survivor of child abuse and neglect recalled her personal trauma to stress the importance of listening to children.
The numbers of calls made to the statewide reporting hotline for child abuse and neglect decreased during the pandemic, because so many mandatory reporters like teachers were not interacting with children as frequently.
However CASA of the Pikes Peak Region, a non-profit, anticipates an additional 120 children to enter it's programs this year because of the pandemic. Volunteers can become Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for children, acting as their voice in the courtroom.
Tiffany Jorgenson experienced two different CASAs throughout her childhood. Jorgenson and her siblings had a tough case regarding their adoption, following reports of child abuse and neglect. "We had my birth mother and her boyfriend, who was very abusive. They were drug and alcohol dependent... Neglect was probably their biggest issue, because we would often be left alone for hours and days at a time, and then abuse was the second most concerning issue. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse," said Jorgenson.
When Jorgenson was only nine years old, she said she took care of her three younger siblings, one of who was a baby at the time. "I was the mom. I got up in the middle of the night and I fed her bottles, and changed her diapers, and I took care of her. She went with me everywhere... Then on July 4 of 1998, she actually passed away from neglect. She had been left in an adult bed and she had unfortunately rolled and suffocated between the bed and the wall during a party where nobody was watching her," said Jorgenson.
Jorgenson said she is still processing her sister's death. She has two children of her own now, and one on the way. "The biggest thing was just realizing how shocking it is that parents can do what my parents did to us... How does this happen? How is abuse a thing? How do people hurt their children intentionally? Like, I could never imagine that. And it's definitely, it's brought a new depth to the grief, in terms of just realizing how very serious our case and our story was... I was the child. I was the child who was abused, who had no voice, and no one would listen to me. And so, I decided years ago, that if my story could make a difference, I was going to share it," said Jorgenson.
Jorgenson still keeps in touch with one of the people who was her CASA. "It is something that they remember because it's a really chaotic time for a kid when they're going through the system... That CASA is the one person that they depend on, that is always there for them, that finally does for them what they say they're going to do," said the Executive Director of CASA, Angela Rose.
With more children being recommended to CASA than in the past, they need more volunteers to help. "It's a time when you are standing alongside someone who really needs help... Making a difference in kid's lives today, makes a difference in adult lives tomorrow," said Brenda Miller, who is a CASA.
Jorgenson said she will continue to share the most vulnerable side of herself until she makes the difference in the world that she wants to see. "Just because I'm not a nine year old child anymore, doesn't mean I don't remember the trauma we went through... Even if they're not saying things, they're saying things about what's going on in their lives and in their families," said Jorgenson.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect, you can call 1-844-CO-4-KIDS to place an anonymous report.
CASA also said they hope the public will participate in their virtual "Month of Hope" this year. In their own words, here's a few different ways you can help:
DONATE TO CASA’S MONTH OF HOPE CAMPAIGN:
LEARN HOW TO VOLUNTEER:
- Visit www.casappr.org/hope [casappr.org] to learn more about CASA’s month-long “Month of Hope” campaign which, in the spirit of social distancing, is being held in place of the annual fundraising event in 2021.
- Make an online donation at www.casappr.org/hope [casappr.org] or sign up to start your own fundraising page which you can share with family and friends.
SHOW SUPPORT ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
- Attend CASA’s “Dudes and Brews” Volunteer Information Session over Zoom on April 13th to learn about the need for more men to become Court Appointed Special Advocates.
- Attend CASA’s Volunteer Information Session over Zoom on April 29th to learn more about the role of the CASA volunteer.
- RSVP for either session at www.casappr.org/volunteer [casappr.org]
- Follow @CASAPikesPeak on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- Post photos of yourself wearing blue on Fridays during April to help generate awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month. Include the hashtags #EndChildAbuse and #ChangeAChildsStory, and tag @CASAPikesPeak.