April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and our attention rightly turns to ways we can support children who have experienced abuse or neglect. According to the US Children’s Bureau, in 2018 there were 687,000 children in foster care in the United States due to abuse or neglect. 

In the Ninth Judicial District, Front Range CASA provided a highly trained volunteer for over 100 kids in 2019. 

For children to thrive despite abuse or neglect, resilience is key. The most common factor in developing resilience, according to the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, is having a stable relationship with a supportive adult.

That’s where Front Range CASA/GAL, Inc. comes in. We recruit, train and support volunteers who get to know children and the adults around them, and who advocate for those children’s needs in court and in the community. Our volunteers are simply everyday people who care deeply about children and are ready to make a child’s life better. They are part of a national network of 93,300 volunteers who are doing this work.

Many of the children we serve are not used to having adults in their lives who they can trust. Most children who experience abuse or neglect are victimized by their own parents. Parental drug abuse, for example, was involved in more than one third of cases of children being removed from families for maltreatment in 2018, nationwide.

Children who have been living in these situations can become accustomed to being overlooked. In fact, most children removed from their families for maltreatment have suffered from neglect as opposed to active abuse. 

Researchers at the Harvard Center on the Developing Child have pointed out that despite this, child neglect receives far less attention than abuse. Compared to active abuse, chronic neglect has been found to be associated with a larger range of damage to children.

By advocating for children’s needs, community members can make a major impact when it comes to mitigating this kind of damage. 

Older youth are some of the youth most in need of advocates. Although babies are at the highest risk of being maltreated, nearly 20 percent of children in foster care nationally are age 15 or older. 

Having experienced abuse or neglect has lasting consequences for these youth. 

The US Children’s Bureau has found that at age 17, more than one quarter of youth in foster care have been referred for substance abuse treatment or counseling at some point. By age 21, 20 percent of youth who were in foster care at age 17 have been incarcerated within the prior two years. 

Twenty-two percent of former foster youth, by age 21, have given birth to or fathered a child. Forty-two percent have experienced homelessness at some point. 

We have great hope for these youth despite the long odds against them.  At age 17, 94 percent of youth in foster care reported that they had a supportive adult in their lives who they could rely on for advice or emotional support. Having a stable relationship with a supportive adult can help children do well even when they have faced significant hardships.

For a great number of these youth, CASA volunteers are that supportive adult. Our programs serve approximately one-third of older youth in foster care nationwide. Our volunteers are trained to understand the impact of trauma on children. They advocate for services that promote healing and help children build resilience. The work CASA volunteers do is life changing, and sometimes life saving. 

Removing children from an environment in which they experienced abuse or neglect does not guarantee positive outcomes for those children. They need quality, therapeutic care and support to move beyond those experiences and thrive.

To get that care and support, children need an adult who can advocate for them and who they can lean on over time. Now is the time for each of us to become that adult, by becoming a CASA volunteer or supporting our programs so others can. Please contact Kiersta Sullivan, Executive Director at 576-7041 or frontrangecasa@3rivers.net.

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