One of the saddest things that happens in our world is the mistreatment of children. Child abuse and neglect happens far more often than most of us can bear to imagine.
This website from Child Help quotes the statistic that 4 children die every day in the United States as a result of child abuse. That is like a large plane crashing every month filled with only children and killing all of them! Now if that type of plane crash were happening over and over again, we'd do something, right?
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month.
But what can we do? I know I used to feel helpless reading the newspaper articles, but then I became a volunteer with an organization called Child Advocates. It is a local chapter of the national organization called CASA. CASA stands for court appointed special advocate. The National CASA website is http://www.nationalcasa.org/.
If you volunteer, you will be a difference in the life of a child!
As a court appointed special advocate I am appointed by a judge to a case of a child or children who have been removed from their home for suspected abuse or neglect. I stay on the case for the roughly 1 year it is open and until the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. I am not paid. I am a volunteer, but because I am appointed by the judge as the CASA, or also called Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), I read the case file, visit the child monthly, talk with the CPS caseworker, attorneys, doctors, therapists, teachers, parents, relatives, anyone with information about the case. I then report to the judge and testify in court during hearings every few months and at the final trial or dismissal hearing about how the child is doing and what next steps are in the best interest of the child.
I have no special skills beyond just being a person who cares, but I work with a coordinator who is on staff with Child Advocates and she answers my questions and accompanies me to court.
The CPS caseworkers are loaded down with many cases, sometimes as many as 30-40 cases. The attorneys appointed to represent the children are also carrying many cases and sometimes do not even get to visit the children they represent. Since CASA volunteers usually have only one case at a time, they can devote much more time and attention to the case and the judges realize this and it has been my experience that they really listen to my recommendations about what is best for the children.
As an advocate you can not only influence what happens in the child's legal case, like whether or not they go home, but you can be a support person for that child who is in a very tough situation. I have worked with mainly young kids, but I have heard stories of teens that are in foster care and having behavioral and academic problems at school, but once a CASA volunteer gets on their case and starts visiting them regularly and taking an intrest in them, suddenly the school problems clear up, all because how they did finally mattered to someone!
The knowlege that someone cares is amazingly powerful in the life of a child!
Okay, still thinking you're too busy to help? Well, what happens if you don't? What will these children that fall through the Child Protective Services cracks grow up to be? A child that grows up in a home where they are unloved and hurt will grow up to hurt others. They may become the criminals that prey on your grandchildren in 10 or 20 years. But getting that child into a safe, loving home can turn their life around. Currently there are only enough CASA volunteers to serve about half the children in the system.
The commitment can be scarey, but it is similar to giving money to your church above and beyond what you think you can comfortably do. There is an amazing feeling and boost to your faith when you allow God to fill in the gaps, and just watch Him provide! I do not believe God wants us to be comfortable in this earthly life.
How can we be comfortable knowing there are children suffering? When I became a mother the thought of children suffering became even more unbearable. The average of 12 hours per month I spend on this volunteer job is absolutely the least I can do! And yes, those hours are sometimes hard to fit in with my own family obligations, but I feel like it is good for my kids to see their mom serving others. Much of that time I am able to fit in as phone calls during their naps, or visits on weekends when my husband is home.
Jesus died on the cross to redeem my life. I sacrifice much less to redeem the lives of children! A volunteer opportunity where you can really become a difference, perhaps a life and death difference in the entire life of a child, well, that works for me!
Find more Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family.