April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
Contributed Article/Courtesy CASA
PHOENIX – April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and CASA of Arizona (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is spreading awareness about preventing child abuse and asking all Arizonans to volunteer to advocate for children in the foster care system. Currently, only 1 in 6 Arizona children in foster care have a CASA volunteer by their side.
More than 600,000 children in the United States experience abuse or neglect each year. Many of them are removed from their homes and put into the dependency court and foster care systems. In Arizona, CASA volunteers are appointed by judges throughout the state to advocate for the best interests of children in court and other settings.
“With 10,000 of our children in Arizona’s foster care system, CASA volunteers are needed more than ever,” said Charlie Gray, CASA of Arizona Program Manager, adding that “CASA volunteers get to know and build a meaningful relationship with the child. These CASA advocates become a trusted resource for the child, the court, and the entire team.”
Children in foster care often move around, living in multiple homes and attending different schools. All these changes can result in challenges and inconsistency. A CASA volunteer is sometimes the only consistent adult in the child’s life. A CASA helps identify and recommend resources by working with everyone involved in the case centered around the child’s well-being.
According to National CASA, studies show children with a CASA volunteer are more likely to find a safe, permanent home, more likely to succeed in school, and half as likely to re-enter the foster care system. The advocates ensure every child who has experienced abuse or neglect can thrive.
“As a CASA volunteer, I’ve experienced children in the foster care system with an advocate have a better chance to be successful because they have been given a voice. We are their one constant from the time appointed to a case until it closes, giving the judge recommendations based on the relationship with the child and best interest,” said one CASA volunteer.
Each of Arizona’s 15 county CASA programs is seeking volunteers to meet the needs of children who do not have a CASA. Furthermore, CASA is working on expanding the diversity and demographics of its volunteer base to better reflect and serve the children in care.
CASA volunteers do not need any prior special training and come from all walks of life. Anyone 21 years of age or older, who can pass a thorough background check and complete 30 hours of training, is encouraged to apply. Another way to get involved is a program with similar requirements called the Foster Care Review Board (FCRB). A judge appoints volunteers to a five-member panel that meets online one weekday per month to review the cases of children in foster care.
To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer visit, www.AZCASAVolunteer.org.
To learn more about becoming an FCRB volunteer visit, www.azfcrb.org.