As a mother of four, it’s difficult for me to wrap my head around why someone would abuse their child.
That said, the statistics don’t lie. There are more than 700,000 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect every year.
Four children die every day from abuse and neglect. More than 400,000 are in foster care on any given day.
How does that translate to society?
Children who suffer from abuse and neglect are 53 percent more likely to become juvenile delinquents, and we all know that usually later leads to hard-core crime.
There were more than 60,000 cases of child abuse reported in Georgia during 2011.
If you do not work in the system of social work and child welfare, you may not have heard of CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates.
These amazing people are volunteers who walk alongside a child who is in the system due to being removed from his/her home due to abuse or neglect.
The advocates know the history of the child’s case. They attend numerous meetings with and on behalf of the child and appear in court with the child.
Because of their familiarity with the case, they can make informed recommendations to the court, always doing so in the best interest of the child.
Janet Walden, executive director of CASA in Forsyth County, said the advocates play a critical role in the lives of these children.
“When a child is removed from the home and placed in temporary foster care, it is so important that they have an adult who will advocate for them,” she explained.
“Caseworkers change, the child’s placement changes, they attend a different school. The only constant in the child’s life during this period is his or her CASA.”
Walden stressed that becoming a court appointed special advocate is a big commitment. The initial training is 40 hours, 30 of those being classroom instruction and 10 hours of courtroom observation.
“It is important for our volunteers to understand how the court system works,” she said.
In addition, they must complete 12 hours of continuing education every year.
“We offer lots of opportunities for our volunteers to complete their hours,” Walden said.
Once a volunteer completes the training and is sworn in by the court, they are assigned cases.
“A CASA can have up to three cases, but most people take on one case at a time,” Walden said. “It is such a big time commitment, it is important that volunteers have flexible work schedules.”
According to Walden, retired people make excellent advocates.
“I keep thinking I need to make T-shirts that say, ‘When I retire, I am going to be a CASA,” she said with a smile.
Thankfully, we live in a community that does so much to support this important organization.
Stars and Strikes is one such company that’s helping CASA. For the second year, it’s holding a benefit haunted house.
Every weekend this month, there will be ghoulish activities on site. The main attraction is the haunted house, which is actually two large tents that are sure to scare young and old alike.
I know this is true since I got a sneak peek last week.
Don’t worry if you have young children. There will be many other things to do in case they don’t want to go through the haunted house.
Outside there will be a pumpkin patch with crafts, treats, and other Halloween activities.
Inside Stars and Strikes, there will be haunted laser tag and discounts on games, bowling, and bumper car sessions. Of course, there will be yummy food with menu specials.
All in all, this is going to be a fun family activity that has a big bonus: all proceeds from the haunted house go to CASA.
I love to see businesses working with our nonprofits, especially those that serve children.
Clearly it takes a special kind of person to be a CASA. Walden said one of the main qualities for her volunteers is patience.
“It is critical that a CASA is willing to work within the system for the good of the child,” she said. “Sometimes it can be stressful, but we need volunteers to be patient and always put the best interest of the child first.”
I have had the privilege of personally knowing many court appointed special advocates over the years.
I can tell you they are a selfless group of people who have such a heart for children. There is such a need in our community for people to represent them.
Last year, CASA served 222 children in Forsyth County alone. Please consider being a volunteer. If that’s not possible, offer support to this wonderful organization.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.