By Faith Miletello | Reporter
The comfort of a dog can help children open up about stressful situations while going through the court system. The Baylor chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta has partnered with the Austin based nonprofit Labs for Children, which places trained dogs with forensic interviewers to help abused children.
“Kyle, the founder of Labs for Children, reached out to us earlier in the semester. His wife works with our philanthropy, and he is an abuse and neglect investigator,” said Chicago sophomore Denae Gerasta, Kappa Alpha Theta’s service chairwoman.“They started this organization to help give a voice to children so that they feel comfortable sharing their stories.”
Gerasta, along with the organization’s philanthropy director Edina, Minn., junior Sirina Thompson, have set up an online fundraising campaign to raise $10,000 to provide a puppy for Labs for Children.
Kappa Alpha Theta’s national philanthropy is CASA for Children, a nonprofit that provides court-appointed special advocates to children going through the legal system.
“It just partners really well with CASA, which we are already so passionate about,” Gerasta said. “CASA is there to give a voice to the children, but they are adults, and sometimes children relate better to animals. Having a dog there is like giving them a friend because the court system can be very intimidating.”
When an organization sponsors a puppy, it pays for “the costs of obtaining a healthy puppy, care and feeding for its first one and a half years of life, veterinary services and all of the training that is necessary prior to placing the dog in a courtroom,” according to the Labs for Children website.
More than 700,000 children are victims of abuse and neglect, and there were 3.2 million cases of child abuse investigated last year in the U.S., according to the Labs for Children website. They believe providing dogs to children who are sharing traumatic experiences in courtrooms gives them courage.
“Getting to sponsor even one dog as a chapter would be counted as a success in my book because it will give one special child a friend as they move through the system,” Thompson said.