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Connie Stephens: Help CASA give children a safe haven
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"'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, my parents were fighting ... It was not as quiet as a mouse."

When we think of Christmas as a child, most of us have good memories. But for many children, childhood memories can be nightmares. These are the words from a 10-year-old who told of his own Christmas Eve nightmare:

"Christmas Eve was scary. My Mom and her boyfriend were using drugs and drinking. They were fighting and yelling. My sisters and I hid beneath the bed. My little sister kept crying and my Mom's boyfriend picked her up and threw her against the wall. She was knocked out cold and bleeding. My Mom called 911. The police took me and my other sister to a foster home and my little sister went to the hospital. We spent Christmas with people we didn't know."

Can you imagine this happening to your child or your grandchild? What happens to these children? Who will intervene? What can we as a society do to protect these vulnerable children?

The Court Appointed Special Advocate Program and the Edmondson-Telford Center for Children are nonprofit organizations who have the common mission of providing comprehensive victim services to abused and neglected children in Hall and Dawson Counties. Both agencies ensure that children have the best services available to promote healing and break the cycle of abuse and neglect for future generations.

CASA and the ET Center have joined forces to build a new home so that they can better serve abused and neglected children in our community. They have proven successful leaders in providing service to more than 1,000 children annually. Currently, children must seek services in various locations. Our goal is to build a facility that will serve to join these agencies and centralize these critical services for children and families.

This new child friendly facility will ensure that children will have a comfortable place for interviews, forensic medical exams, child and family assessments, recommendations for counseling, health care, and education, a secure place for visitation with family and siblings, emergency needs (clothes, toys, etc) advocate and stakeholders' trainings, family and community education and a place for children to feel comfortable with a toys, games, books and a play gym.

Studies show that child maltreatment is the greatest single risk factor for many bad outcomes, including involvement in the juvenile justice system, major psychiatric illnesses, health issues and substance abuse.

For children who have been traumatized, it is not just a matter of ensuring they are in a safe place and then moving on. These children often require ongoing counseling, health care, and special educational services. Without consistent, ongoing treatment, these children will have problems the rest of their lives.
This is where you can help. Help build "The Little House" for children. Consider making a tax deductible contribution to this worthy cause. You will make a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children and leave a legacy in our community. Any donation or in-kind service will be appreciated.

Your contribution will have a lasting impact on the lives of abused and neglected children. Having a permanent home will ensure that our common mission is accomplished in protecting the most vulnerable members of our society: our children!

Tax deductible donations can be made to the E.T. and CASA Building Fund. P.O. Box 907471 Gainesville, GA 30501-0908.

Connie Stephens is director of the Hall-Dawson CASA Program, Inc. Contact: P.O. Box 907471, Gainesville, GA 30501-0908; 770-531-1964, e-mail,