Words from our executive director, Jane Andrews. Welcome, Jane!
People don’t like ugly; ugly people, ugly topics, ugly situations. They usually try to avoid anything they consider ugly. Child abuse is ugly. Most people avoid the topic of child abuse altogether for that reason. However, that doesn’t make it go away. Last year in Davidson County, Tennessee there were 1,791 children in Juvenile Court because they had been abused or neglected. And those were only the cases that had been reported and substantiated. Think about how many other children are abused, but it is never reported.
Children have a basic right to live in safety, free of abuse. Children rely on adults to keep them safe: their parents, neighbors, teachers, relatives, friends who interact with these children everyday. Once child abuse is reported, the child is still dependent on adults for their safety. The case is investigated by professionals to substantiate the allegations. When the abuse is substantiated, the child is removed from the home and put into a temporary safe place to live until a Judge in Juvenile Court decides the safest place for the child permanently. The child has a Department of Children’s Service Case Worker and a court appointed attorney. Many times the court will also appoint a CASA volunteer, a trained advocate to be the voice of the child in court. Often a child will have special needs that will require other specially trained professional adults to help them, such as mental health counselors. All along the way there are adults who have the opportunity to help these children. Unfortunately, too often they still fall through the cracks of our child welfare system. In 2010, 18% of the children who entered the foster care system in Tennessee were re-entries, meaning they had already been in foster care at least one other time in their short lives. In 2012, 73 children died after having involvement with DCS. We need to do a better job of making sure our children are safe and free from abuse.
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) can help. CASA volunteers are specially trained to identify the special needs of abused and neglected children and how to adequately get those needs addressed.
Imagine being an abused five year old without any adults in your life that you trust to make sure you are safe. You are never sure if your mother will remember to fix you dinner. You know the tooth fairy does not exist because she never visited you. You live in an X-rated world where monsters are real and nightmares happen in the daytime.
Now imagine you are the one adult that comes into this child’s life and offers a lifeline. You find out what is really going on. You make sure the authorities take action to keep the child safe. Who are you? You are a CASA volunteer.
Only 15-20 hours a month can help ensure an abused child finds a safe, permanent home. Call CASA today to begin your journey as a CASA volunteer. Phone: 615-425-2383 or visit our website for more information: www.casa-nashville.org