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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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8/27/2012 10:04:00 PM
Many county babies need volunteer help
Photo illustration
Photo illustration
By Toni Denis

PRESCOTT - Part detective, part researcher, "Baby" Court Appointed Special Advocates are specially trained to advise on the best course for children from infants to age 5 who've been removed from their homes by Child Protective Services.

A record 120 children are in the Baby CASA program in Yavapai County alone, though only nine CASAs are dedicated specifically for children that age.

"I could put a hundred Baby CASAs to work countywide advocating for these extremely vulnerable children," said Tracy Sauer, CASA coordinator in Prescott and one of three CASA coordinators for Yavapai County.

Becky Ruffner, the Yavapai County CASA who developed the Baby CASA training program in 2004 and trains statewide, said that a combination of factors has caused the number of children to increase, including lost jobs and a rise in drug abuse. Since fewer people overall are volunteering to be CASAs, the need is greater than ever.

"Statewide in Arizona, infants under one year are removed from family care by CPS at twice the rate of children of all ages," Ruffner said. "Right now there are 13,000 children in foster care in Arizona, and of that, probably 42 percent are under age 6. That's a historically large increase."

Correspondingly, because children younger than 3 are more apt to die from lack of food or maltreatment, the death rate for children in such situations reached 70 in Arizona during 2011.

Jane Shaw, who coordinates a support group for new CASAs, said though the majority of cases are in the highest population center - Maricopa County - the cases in Yavapai County are just as serious.

"It has always astonished me that Prescott is such a little town and we see all of the same problems of a big city," Shaw said. "Neglect, abuse, drug exposure, you name it, they're all here."

Shaw said many CASAs prefer to work with older children because they can establish relationships and mentor them, but she finds the Baby CASA cases rewarding because she can make an enormous impact on a child's life at a critical stage of brain development. One case involving a boy who'd been exposed to drugs in the womb, for instance, lead to his eventual removal from the mother's custody and placement with a family that adopted him.

"Now he runs around and is happy," Shaw said. "He's getting all of the physical and educational assistance available that he needed."

Ruffner said she had a case of an 18-month-old girl whose mother overdosed and was comatose for two days while the girl wandered the house in a diaper in January.

"A neighbor found her traumatized and dehydrated, but OK," Ruffner said. "We placed her with her aunt who lived locally. Eventually she was adopted because the mother had a brain injury, was paralyzed on one side, and was unable to care for her. I visited her on her fourth birthday last Friday and she is thriving. She's going to preschool and taking gymnastics and is in a loving extended family."

Diana Dalsass, who typically works with teens as a CASA, has training as a Baby CASA and worked on a case in which a 2-year-old had a broken bone. She later learned the child had several broken bones in various stages of healing. The mother's denial of any injuries led her to have the child tested for brittle bone syndrome, which he didn't have. Further investigation found that the child hadn't been taken to a doctor since 10 days after birth.

Though the mother was probably at fault, because the parents were divorced and the father had been involved in the care of the child, there was no hard proof, Dalsass said. When the mother and her boyfriend abandoned the child, moving to another state, the foster parents adopted him.

"I was relieved," Dalsass said.

In many cases, especially of neglect, children can be reunited with parents who undergo training and counseling. Sometimes when drug abuse is involved, the children can be reunited after one or both parents go through rehab. Ruffner said she had a case in which a mother spent two years fighting to get drug-free and regain custody of her children - and she has remained drug-free.

"Sometimes reunification is possible and we find that the parents should visit frequently while the children are in placement," Ruffner said.

To become a CASA requires 30 hours of training; a Baby CASA requires an additional five hours of training. A fingerprint and background check are required for certification, but no expertise is needed. For more information about becoming a Baby CASA in Yavapai County, call 928-771-3165 in Prescott or 928-554-8900 in Camp Verde. For questions, call Tracy Sauer at the Prescott phone number.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, September 02, 2012
Article comment by: Just Saying

Why can't the state allow the newly born to be tossed into a dumpster? There is really nothing differentiating an unborn from a human immediately outside the mother. Does it become a life to be honored when it begins breathing on its own.? What exactly is the determination? Shouldn't the state be allowed to let the mother decide if the child should be tossed afterall its hers and no one elses. Mothers who kill their children can simply claim post birth abortion rights. Right? Until it is able to feed itself it could be considered dependent on the mother.

Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012
Article comment by: Marianne Elizabeth Vangalio

Dear: "Open Book"
Thanks for your response and concern.
Should the child be punished as a result of a rape/forced pregnancy? Doesn't every life deserve a chance at life? Not all life was conceived under perfect circumstances. Certainly not mine and certainly not many others.
No one promised anyone a rose garden ~ not even in my world of growing up but challenging events builds character, strength, understanding and compassion.
How would we ever know strength if it were not for weakness ~ or health if it were not for illnesses ~ or good if it were not for evil?
To care for those who are unable to care for themselves is a gift I believe all are born to do and I can't imagine anyone feeling satisfied living for self alone. Hence, we need the hurting souls.
If you would kindly take some time you may discover there are orphanages in Phoenix.
Attention: "An unborn child is safe:" We are all victims of victims. Hopefully we/they learn from bad happenings and offer aid.
To discard a human life simply because its not "wanted" is implausible. Once a child is born into this world and if abused in any fashion he/she has at least a chance of survival and success at having a decent life ~ but when the un -borns life is taken so goes any hope or chance of anything good, honest, or pure ~ only emptiness and hopelessness.

Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012
Article comment by: An unborn child is safe

from neglect, abuse, sexual exploitation, hunger, thirst, crime, etc.,
UNTIL it is born.

Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012
Article comment by: open book

Dear Ms. Vangalio:

Sorry for my late response, but I was away from the internet for a couple of days.

I appreciate you sharing your story. I do, however, agree with the next comment that "relabeling" proceedures (I would expect it to be called a D&C rather than a tubal ligation) would become common. I also believe that limiting abortions only really limits them for those women who cannot afford to a) go someplace where abortions are performed to medical standards, or b) pay a doctor extra to "relabel" the procedure. Please pay heed to the comment about the person who saw the women after poorly-done abortions.

I also agree with the comment about women being treated like chattel. It really has not been that long since women and children were chattel, and in some cultures they still are. One might make an erroneous assumption that every pregnancy is the result of a woman consiously and willingingly making "a decision to involve herself in sexual activities." The decision may not be hers to make. It might be the result of violence. It might be the result of emotional pressure. I cannot imagine that the husband of a woman who agreed to have sexual activities only when she wanted to become pregnant would be very satisfied in the marriage.

I would agree with the person that supposed that nobody likes abortion. And I still believe that our society has a long way to go about providing sex education and contraception, as well as adoption opportunities. One example would be the large religious employers who do not want to provide even insurance for family planning.

I understand that you have a very strong personal belief on this issue, and I admire you for it. However, each woman should still have the right to make the decision that is best for her in her specific situation.

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Article comment by: j l

@ L C I think Dear Mariann's point had something to do with the dilemma of killing both the fetus and the mother, or killing just the fetus. What at first glance appears to be care for the unborn, becomes a death penalty for the both the unborn and some mothers. As if no decent person ever had an abortion. The anti-family planning, anti-contraception, anti-knowledge crowd may be inadvertently promoting abortions by conveniently ignoring tough questions and, regretfully, having difficulty facing reality (like how you ACTUALLY reduce unwanted pregnancies). I think the anti-freedom people believe that some girls are just evil, and all women are basically property, incapable of learning responsibility, and better controlled by “me and Uncle Vern” because “we know Gods intent and plan”. How can it be reconciled?

Why can't everyone concede that we all dislike abortions. Honestly, who likes abortions? (even the doctors can do other things).

And why can't we concede that sexually mature and pregnant women are not suddenly "property" of the state (or of some leader(s) of a religious sect)? Really, leave my daughters alone, okay? I’m going with Freedom on this one.

So, find a way to stop abortions without state sponsored coercion and potential death penalties for women. Cutting corners by avoiding important aspects of the issue and casting out the mother, is a suspect attempt at solving the problem.

Is anybody surprised that the"Taliban-lite-model" isn't catching on in America? Honest, truthful, fact based, science informed sex-education and potentially... contraception... might be a place to begin.

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Article comment by: Marianne Elizabeth Vangalio

Sorry, but what exactly is a "safe abortion?" You wouldn't be implying there's a "safe" way to murder an un-born baby, would you?
The reason the Doc termed the procedure as "tubal ligation" was because abortion was against hospital policy, the young lady was under 15 years of age and without parental consent. Hence, the Doc wrote it up as "tubal ligation" in her medical record. He was later terminated himself ~ in a safe manner, of course.

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Article comment by: L. C.

Hey, @ '+dear marianne+'
thinking you missed her point entirely

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Article comment by: Dear Marianne

THANK YOU for your personal story revealing why abortion should remain safe and legal!

I worked in a hospital prior to Roe v Wade, and remember the septic ward, filled with women who had to resort to illegal avenues.

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Article comment by: Marianne Elizabeth Vangalio

In case my comment was unclear to some ~ the Doc told me it was a tubal and performed instead an abortion. Sorry for any misleadings.

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Article comment by: Marianne Elizabeth Vangalio

Good Morning
So what you are suggesting is punish (murder) the un-born because its mother may or may not possess emotional ,financial, physical stability or due to the fact she made an un- wise decision to involve herself in sexual activities and became pregnant.

A "woman's choice." Once a women/ young girl offers up her body for intercourse she has given her body over to someone else. Once she becomes pregnant its not only her anymore ~ its another life ~ a silent voice (temporarily) who is unable to speak any choices for herself/himself.

Our society does present sex education, birth control, adoption counseling/opportunities.

I'm willing to share with you a delicate story. At age 24, I was employed as a Medical Office Receptionist/Doctor's Assistant, (OB-GYN). He, the doctor, invited me into his exam room while he performed what he described was a 'tubal ligation" on a young lady. Very innocent I was, I had no clue what this procedure involved. I quickly learned. That was my last day on the job. That was in 1974.

Why did I share with you? I invite you to witness such a procedure and then come back to this thread and convince me from your heart of hearts that abortion is more humane than giving birth no matter what the circumstance may or may not be.

Thanks for your response.
Prayers always

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Article comment by: open book

Dear Ms. Vangalio:

I appreciate your compassion and service to the people in our area, but in this case I disagree with your proposal. Requiring that every fertilized egg be born, even against the wishes of the mother, in my opinion, lessens the value of a life. I do not like abortion, but I do believe that it should be the right of every woman to make that choice for herself. I also believe that if our society allowed and promoted adequate family planning information (sex education) along with ready access to birth control, and good education about adoption opportunities, the choice of abortion would decrease.

To the rest:

This is a humanitarian and societal issue. If a woman does not have the (monetary, emotional, physical) resources to raise a child, that task often falls to the State. Again, if we choose to have every fertilized egg be born, then we must be williing to pay for adequate resources to raise and educate those children that will be abused or abandoned. Otherwise, we are willingly and knowingly contributing to the suffering and deaths of these innocent little babies and children.

Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Article comment by: Here's a Thought

open book: How about we stop excusing child abuse to push a political agenda?

Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Article comment by: Think About It.

Has if ever occurred to some of you that as a result of demonstrating to our children abortion is an acceptable procedure that in turn we are teaching disregard for human life and possibly just possibly that is why we are having more young children discarded, abused, neglected, shunned, abandoned by their own care givers?
Marianne Elizabeth Vangalio

Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Article comment by: The Rev

Open book I will cede to funding contraception and abortion in full under condition: we begin a program where those on "welfare" or who have their children taken away are sterilized. I call this the full Margaret.

Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Article comment by: open book

I imagine I'll get slammed for my comment, and I applaud the efforts of the people in the article. I do wonder, though, if the increase in babies needing State care is related to the reduction of benefits to the poor over the last few years. This is also a very good illustration that stopping abortion and limiting contraception has an effect on the State services. If we want the former we must be willing to increase the latter.

Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Article comment by: open book

I pray for these small ones.

Time for those who oppose contraception and abortion to step up and help out. Here is where you get to walk the walk.

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