CASA of Ohio Valley executive director Ashley Evans-Smith, from left, speaks to potential volunteer Jennifer Goetz, along with Terri Coke, program manager for McLean County and advocate supervisor, and Alondra Johnson, program manager and advocate supervisor, on April 12 in Owensboro.

The month of April annually recognizes National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

But for organizations like Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Ohio Valley, it’s an objective that staff members and trained community members continue to raise awareness for every single day.

Since 1996, CASA of Ohio Valley — which is part of the National CASA/GAL and the Kentucky CASA Network — has been focusing on serving children in communities within Daviess County, before expanding its reach in 2019 to those in McLean County.

The nonprofit child advocacy program provides trained court-appointed volunteers to advocate in the family court systems for abused and neglected children by working closely with family courts and social workers.

Additionally, the advocates act as an “another set of eyes and ears” for the court system.

“That is the core of what we do,” said Ashley Evans-Smith, executive director for the organization.

However, she said it “takes a lot of moving parts to be able to do that,” which includes making others aware of what’s going on behind closed doors.

“There are an astronomical number of children who are involved in the family court system because they have been abused and neglected,” Evans-Smith said. “Just in Daviess County, that number was over 500 last year.”

Those are just the kids involved in family court.

“Not every child who’s involved in the social services system ends up in family court, so there are even more of those,” Evans-Smith explained, “and not every child who is abused or neglected (gets) reported.”

In a recent report published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children’s Bureau, Kentucky ranked fifth in child abuse cases across the country.

“This is going on in every pocket of our community and across every elementary school, high school, child care center,” Evans-Smith said. “It is happening throughout our community, whether that’s here in Daviess County, McLean County, our surrounding counties ….”

While Evans-Smith said poverty, which is another issue in Kentucky, can be one of the factors for child abuse and neglect, it is not the only one.

“Child abuse and neglect is a problem in every neighborhood, and every school and every kind of family,” she said. “It does not discriminate based on race, on family makeup, on religious background and certainly not on socioeconomic status.”

However, it can still go unnoticed.

“The reason we don’t recognize it is typically we think everyone is just like us,” Evans-Smith said. “The reality is that families are made up in a lot of different ways.

“(But) I have the added benefit of being involved in nonprofit work and being involved in a system that serves families who are involved in family court, so I see it every day when I’m at work; but the same is not true for anyone who maybe works across the street as Brescia (University) or who works at the hospital. They just may not be as entrenched in this kind of thing in the community.”

One of the main things Evans-Smith said the organization focuses on after getting involved in a case is resilience building.

“We want to advocate for abused and neglected children so that they are in safe and healthy situations right now and they are able to achieve permanency as soon as they possibly can,” she said. “But a big part of changing the trajectory of their life is resilience.

“We know that resilience is really created and supported through a strong support system.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Evans-Smith said those supports “disappeared or changed dramatically.”

“That teacher that you leaned on for emotional support, (you were) only seeing for an hour-and-a-half a day through a screen,” she said. “You (didn’t) have that same connection that you had to them.”

As society has been getting adjusted to a new normal, COVID still has lingering effects regarding mental health and substance abuse.

“Mental health has changed dramatically,” Evans-Smith said, “... and mental health is a huge factor in the success of families in general; but certainly to those who have been impacted by abuse and neglect.”

Still, Evans-Smith, her staff and the advocates remember why they continue to do the work they do, regardless of the changes and obstacles that come their way.

“(It makes) an impact on every individual,” she said. “Even if I walked away from these kids, which I could never do …, it would still touch me and my family because it touches every single workplace, it touches every single church, it touches every single classroom.

“It gives me a tremendous amount of hope for the children that we serve and for the families that we serve.”

The organization will be holding a new advocate training session Tuesday, April 18.

If interested in becoming an advocate or wanting to learn more about CASA of Ohio Valley, call 270-683-2138 or visit

(1) comment

Kenneth Riner

I came to know about your post through a friend. I really enjoyed it after watching it. If you want to find a personal injury attorney in san francisco dolan law in your area, I also give you the information. If so, then you've come to the right place. Use the link to know more details. Finding a good injury lawyer can also be difficult.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.