Tell me something: Does it break your heart when you read an article in the newspaper about a child who was severely abused, hurt, maybe died, at the hands of his or her own parent? Do you think about your own children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and how different their lives are surrounded by adults who love and cherish them?
Last year there were over 400 children in foster care in the 16th Judicial District. These are children that go to our schools, churches and live in our communities. Despite the state’s attempt to help, many of these children become trapped in the court and child welfare maze and spend their childhood in one placement after another. Removed from family, friends and the only life they have ever known.
You can be a champion for their healing. You can stop the trajectory they are on, a deep abyss they are falling into as they enter the foster care system. You can speak up for them so they will not “fall through the cracks,” will not move from foster home to foster home.You can lift them up so they will get the individual quality attention they deserve so the healing can begin. Again, think of the children you know and love – would you want to help them? It’s true you can’t help all of the abused children but you can help one or two, and make a huge difference in their lives.
You can lift up a child’s voice, a child’s life by becoming a CASA, a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate.
CASA volunteers are trained to work with children, families, DHS and the courts. CASA volunteers are appointed by a judge to: review records, research information and talk to everyone involved in the child’s case including: social workers, attorneys, parents, teachers, family members and of course the children themselves. They then present their recommendation to the court in a written report. The CASA volunteer does not provide legal representation. However, the CASA volunteer does provide crucial background information that assists attorneys in presenting their cases. Judges rely heavily on this information to help them make an informed decision on the child’s future.
Studies show that children that have been assigned a CASA tend to spend less time in foster care, receive more court ordered services, are less likely to reenter the system and are more likely to find a permanent home. Your voice will be heard as you speak for the best interests of an abused child. Ask yourself: how can you not help a child who is hurting, a child who needs you to speak for them?