CASA. A Child’s Voice.
What is CASA? It stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. We speak up in court for children who are removed from homes because of abuse and neglect. Although I have been a volunteer with child-based organizations since I was in college, I have been a CASA in Lake County, Illinois for 5-years. It has been one of the more challenging, yet most rewarding endeavors.
CASA came in to existence in 1977 because of Seattle Judge, David Soukup. (I believe he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.) He worried late in to the night about decisions he was making on behalf of abused and neglected children. There was little time and even less information to help the judge make good decisions which would forever impact a child’s life. So he began enlisting volunteer citizens to act as his eyes and ears for cases coming through his court.
Judge David Soukup.
Today, CASA has nearly 1000 program offices and 77-thousand volunteers across the United States. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, it’s a start. Much more must be done. For every child with a volunteer advocate, another two children must go it alone in the overburdened and underfunded child welfare system. Right now, 700-thousand children find themselves in the foster care and family court systems. These aren’t just a bunch of statistics. These are children. Some have never been told they are loved or special. Others have lived in conditions much like a horror film.
The U.S. has the highest rate of child abuse and neglect of any industrialized nation. Without a CASA, these young survivors are more likely to drop out of school and become teen parents. They may not receive needed services and they will be more likely to struggle with violent relationship and substance abuse issues. They do not deserve this type of forecast.
What is the best way to help CASA? We need to prevent abuse and neglect. Period. Until then, we need more advocates. And we need more money. This year our federal funding was chopped. That funding is desperately needed to train volunteers, start new programs and provide services for children we help.
I encourage you to open your heart to these children. We all need to speak up for their rights and their futures. It’s the least we can for those who deserve so much better than what they have endured.
Be the change,
Your Mrs. International 2013