Knowing How to Advocate for Vulnerable Populations

Domestic Violence Awareness is recognized throughout the month of October in an effort to end domestic violence. During this month, survivors of abuse, victim advocates, allied professionals and vested community members come together to take action and raise awareness by sharing personal stories, resources and ways to help. 

As part of Texas CASA’s Guiding Principles, we recognize the significant trauma that children experience when they are in an environment where intimate partner violence (domestic violence) is occurring. We also recognize the extreme danger that survivors of intimate partner violence encounter, especially as they weigh the risks of leaving an abusive relationship. Texas CASA believes in providing education around these issues, and promoting partnership with parents who are survivors of intimate partner violence to help them keep their children safely in their care whenever possible.    

Domestic violence impacts many families involved in the child welfare system, and this is an area where CASA volunteers can make a powerful impact through informed recommendations about appropriate services, resources and supports. As part of the Pre-Service Curriculum, CASA volunteers learn all about domestic violence, including the different types of abuse, the causes, the legal system response, barriers to leaving a violent relationship and more. Understanding domestic violence is crucial for CASA volunteers, but it is also important for us all to be well-educated on this dangerous social crisis and know where to get help when needed 

Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. This type of behavior can include physical violence, sexual abuse, psychological violence, emotional abuse, economic abuse, digital abuse, and reproductive coercion. Many of these forms of abuse may be at work simultaneously. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other. Domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of their socioeconomic background, educational level, race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. According to the Texas Advocacy Project, “1 in 3 Texans will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.” This alarming statistic is evidence of the many children, parents and families in need of healing right here in our backyard.   

For those involved in the child welfare system, including CASA volunteers, it is important to be aware that a determination of domestic violence within the child’s home will significantly influence placement decisions. A child found to be living in a violent home is more likely to be removed – meaning more support is needed for the non-abusing parent to retain/regain custody. Here are a few resources to help be the best advocate for families affected by domestic violence:  

  • In this episode of CASA on the Go, Claire Sudolsky from the Texas Council on Family Violence shares her expertise and discusses best practices around evidence-based services for abusive partners, ways to support survivors and things to keep in mind as we advocate for safety and healing.  
  • These 5 Children’s Books to Help with Conversations about Domestic Violence aim to make these conversations a little bit easier for CASA volunteers, parents, foster parents and caregivers to have with children and youth who have been exposed to domestic violence.  
  • The Safe & Together Institute offers a host of trainings and tools focused on domestic violence (also known as intimate partner violence). They are best known for the Safe & Together™ Model, a set of globally used tools and resources designed to help organizations focused on serving children and families to become domestic violence-informed.  
  • The Texas Health & Human Services Family Violence Program promotes safety, self-sufficiency, and long-term independence of adult and child survivors of family violence and survivors of dating violence. Through a network of trauma-informed service providers, the program provides emergency shelter and supportive services to survivors and their children, educates the public, provides training and offers prevention support to various organizations across Texas.     

October is also recognized as Down Syndrome Awareness Month. As we honor the significance of this month, it is important to mention that according to the CDC “children with disabilities may be at higher risk for abuse or neglect than children without disabilities.” Furthermore, “Parents can more easily become stressed with the demands placed on them by parenting a child with a disability.” We encourage you to read about Childhood Maltreatment among Children with Disabilities to learn more. CASA volunteers can also check out an important CASA on the Go podcast episode Advocating for Youth with Disabilities featuring Heidi Lersch, Educator and Training Coordinator, and Rashid Amrani-Khaldi, Community Engagement Specialist, with SAFE Disability Services.  

Learning about these topics and knowing where to get resources prepares us all for providing the very best advocacy for children and families in the child welfare system.

Thank you for all that you do.    

NOTE: CASA volunteers are not meant to be crisis counselors, yet there may be situations where a child or family member is in crisis and needs additional, specialized support. In these situations, the best advocacy a volunteer can provide is information on where they can get the support they need. If someone you know is in crisis, help is available 24/7. 

National Domestic Violence Hotline:
1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit, Español disponible 
TTY for Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-787-3224   

Love is Respect: National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline:
Call 1-866-331-9474 or text LOVEIS to 22522 or visit