Right here in our community, there are abused and neglected children who live in the shadows of our lives. She may be the little girl in your son’s kindergarten class who had to move homes and change schools three or four times in the last year. He may be the lonely child at the park who doesn’t join the game.
The foster care and child welfare system is full of compassionate lawyers, judges, social workers and foster families, but according to recent statistics each year, more than 660,000 children are placed in foster care nationally. This intense need can strain the system to the point where they are simply unable to protect the rights of each child.
So the little girl who has already suffered in an abusive home enters the foster care system, which places her in three or four different homes in just a few months. Or the two siblings who lost their mother to incarceration are split up and live on different sides of the same county.
This isn’t just a problem; it is nothing short of a violation of their human rights. A child cannot defend his or her own rights, but a CASA volunteer can!
Ocmulgee CASA is a national nonprofit organization which trains and supports volunteers — people like you and me in this judicial circuit — to speak and act as advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children. They are trained to work within the child welfare and family court systems and are appointed by judges to individual cases. With the help of a CASA volunteer, a child is half as likely to languish in the foster care system and that much more likely to find a safe and permanent home.
But today, only 36 percent of the children in need have access to a CASA volunteer. That’s nearly 400,000 children who don’t have that advocate. We are dedicated to ensuring that every child in the foster care and child welfare system has a qualified CASA volunteer looking out for their best interests. To do this, we need to more than double the 75,000 current CASA volunteers in 950 local offices nationwide
Every child has a right to thrive, to be treated with dignity and to live in a safe, loving home. Every child deserves a fighting chance.
Once grown, these former foster kids could be our future doctors, teachers and leaders. Coming through a period of vulnerability and fear, the child can then understand his potential and his rights. She will believe in herself. That is our opportunity and our challenge.
I invite the people of Baldwin County to stand up with me and support these children. Donate or more importantly become an advocate for abused children. Go to www.ocmulgeecasa
.org or call (478) 452-9170 to learn more.