By Claire Morgan
YWCA Clark County
When Linda, 13, and Kevin, 10, were first assigned their CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), serious allegations of physical abuse, lack of supervision, and neglect had surfaced with a focus on their stepmother and older step-siblings. Their father was out of the house working, and was rarely around to support his children. The children had been sent to school injured, dirty and neglected on multiple occasions. At the time, their social worker had determined that she was unable to inspire change with the parents or remove the children from the home.
The CASA worked tirelessly as an intermediary between the school, a potential foster family, the social worker and the children’s parents and grandparents. Through her efforts, a viable foster care placement was found, and Linda and Kevin’s grandfather was able to be involved in a solution for their long-term care.
April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, and the CASA Program is making a difference for abused children by ensuring their voices are heard and their interests are protected. Every year, 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States. Initiatives like the CASA Program help to advocate for these children.
CASA is a nationally accredited advocacy program administered for Clark County by YWCA. CASAs are specially trained volunteers who advocate for children that have become involved in the court or foster care system. Currently, 160 volunteers advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in Clark County. The role of a CASA is to be a voice for the child and ensure that his or her interests are represented. Responsibilities include ensuring court ordered services are provided, conducting investigations and interviews, and reporting back to the court.
The benefits of advocacy for a child are many. Often, a CASA is the one consistent presence in a child’s life. This gives a child a sense of permanence and stability in what is otherwise a confusing and upsetting process. Children that have a CASA will exit the foster system more quickly and be half as likely to return to it. They also perform better in school and benefit from more services than children who do not have the benefit of advocacy.
Since it was founded in 1916, YWCA Clark County has been assisting Southwestern Washington’s women, children and families in need. As one of Clark County’s largest nonprofit organizations, YWCA serves more than 11,800 community members through various advocacy, education, and outreach programs. One of the ways that YWCA Clark County serves the community is through administering the CASA Program. Programs like this are important, especially with the alarming fact that nationwide, five children die every day as a result of child abuse.
The importance of spreading awareness of child abuse and neglect can not be understated. Often, these children have very limited opportunities to control or change their day to day lives. They require the attention and advocacy of involved adults who have the knowledge and ability to help them change their situations. By drawing attention to the plight of abused and neglected children throughout the year and during dedicated awareness months, more adults can be inspired to speak up for any abused children they encounter or even become advocates. As more people become aware of this problem, more children’s voices can be heard.
You can help raise awareness by keeping an open dialog with the children in your life, connecting with your local CASA organization, and reporting abuse to the police.
Claire received a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies at the College of New Jersey in Ewing, NJ, before earning a diploma in Dental Assisting and spending several years working in the field of dentistry. Claire recently began working in the Development and Communications department as an intern at YWCA Clark County.