Agency name: Child Abuse Prevention Council
Contact: (209) 644-5318
Story: On December 7, 1973, Latanya Smith was born to her 15-year-old single mother, Bernice Wiley. In December 1976, Latanya was taken to hospital by her grandmother with bruises and other injuries. After an investigation, Latanya was returned to the care of her grandmother while Bernice, her mother, went through counseling. Still, there was no advice for Charles Johnson, the mother’s boyfriend and the man who beat up the 3-year-old.
On January 17, 1977, Bernice completed her consultations and Latanya was returned to her care. Although no one can ever know the pain that 3-year-old Latanya was able to endure, we do know that on February 14, 1977, Latanya died from physical violence.
Three jury members and other concerned community members were so moved by Latanya’s case and the fact that she could have been saved had she not “escaped the system” that the child abuse was formed. The Child Abuse Prevention Council is now a place families can turn to in times of crisis; a place where parents can learn to be better parents, children can heal from the wounds of abuse and neglect, and where families can improve their quality of life.
Mission: The Child Abuse Prevention Council protects children and strengthens families through awareness and results-based programs delivered with compassion. The protection of children, including our youth in foster care, has been one of the main goals of our Court Appointed Special Advocates program.
Fewer than 50 percent of foster children graduate from high school and one in five will be homeless after the age of 18. CASA volunteers defend children in foster care. The council is actively working to change these statistics for foster children in San Joaquin County. Our CASA volunteers ensure that foster children are not forgotten, but instead have the opportunity to live happy and healthy lives.
Sometimes this job involves attending meetings with teachers, doctors, lawyers or social workers. Sometimes it means more.
A volunteer tells a story: After five months of establishing a relationship with my child CASA, I had to take a trip to New York and I missed our weekly meeting. The next week when I got back, the kid, we’ll call him Joey, hung on to me all afternoon. It was so much that after an hour I started to think that maybe something was wrong and I needed to ask a few questions. I looked into her sparkling, energetic eyes and said… “Hey Joey, what’s up?” I notice that you are more affectionate today than usual… is there something going that you want to talk about? He looked at me with his arms wrapped around my waist and responded enthusiastically “Oh, no, Miss Beth, everything is fine!” It’s just that you’re the only one hugging me. As he fled, I had to hold back my tears and breathe in my disbelief. How is it that a 7-year-old boy placed in foster care is only kissed once a week? Besides, how is it that a child has to wait once a week to receive affection? At that point, I realized that there were hundreds and hundreds of foster children, right here in our own community, hungry for love, affection and affirmation. a caring adult. And from that point on, Joey received countless hugs during our time together, but, even better, he was recently placed in a new foster home with a loving, caring, nurturing foster mother – and cuddly.
You may not be able to foster foster care, but you can change the life of a young child. Your donation will help CAPC keep its commitment by giving every child the opportunity to thrive in a safe and loving environment, protecting children and strengthening families.