At Stake 

Child advocates mourn abuse victims, raise awareness.

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Last year, the Memphis Child Advocacy Center raised its flag 14 times, one for every youngster killed by child abuse. That was almost three times the number of flag raisings as they had the year before.

And, as the number of domestic violence and child abuse cases rises across the country, some are blaming the failing economy.

As part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Child Advocacy Center, the Exchange Club, and Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) will host the "Light of Hope Candlelight Vigil" on Tuesday, April 21st, to remember children who have died from abuse.

The vigil, now in its seventh year, will take place at Juvenile Court, 616 Adams, at 5:30 p.m.

Another part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month is CASA's "Awareness Project." For the project, CASA placed white stakes with blue ribbons in the park across from Juvenile Court. Each of the 3,000 stakes represents an abused or neglected child who went through Juvenile Court without a CASA volunteer.

"[Court-appointed child advocates] get to know the child and represent the child only in his or her best interest," says Amber Norris, director of development at CASA. "They build trust with that child, so that the child will speak honestly about what he or she has gone through, and also so the child will be honest about his/her own wishes for the future."

One participant, Jeni Chatham, now a student at Southwest Tennessee Community College, was abused as a child by her father. After staying for a time with relatives, she entered the Shelby County foster care system. She was enrolled in De Neuville Heights High School, a campus run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

"I know during those years a lot of foster kids had a difficult time, but I felt blessed to have been there," she said. "I feel like I really grew as a person, and I still talk to the sister that was at our cottage."

Other National Child Abuse Prevention Month activities include the 5K 4Kids on April 24th and an 100-mile ride on April 25th by Bikers Against Child Abuse.

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