Children are Waiting Months for an AdvocateLANCASTER, PA (March 29, 2016) – Join Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Lancaster County’s commitment to helping victims of child abuse and neglect heal, and making sure all children feel safe and loved.
For the first time in CASA’s history, children are waiting weeks and sometimes months to be assigned an available advocate.
From 2010 (the first year a case was assigned to CASA) through to mid 2015, CASA maintained a list of trained advocates waiting to be matched with cases identified by Lancaster County dependency court. Today, there is no volunteer wait list – there is a child waiting list.
Children identified by the court to have a CASA assigned are having to wait for an available volunteer. The child wait list has not been cleared in the past six months and has numbered as high as 26. That is 26 children without a voice in the system and often without a consistent adult presence during what is an exceedingly tumultuous time in their lives.
The impact of a wait time is significant in several respects. The child is languishing in foster care without the benefit of a CASA – a compassionate, qualified, and consistent advocate.
Because judges must select specific cases to appoint CASA, often times we see children who have been removed from the most difficult of situations. The longer these children are without an advocate, the more difficult their journey.
Children waiting forces CASA to get involved in court-appointed cases later in the process. In addition to the wait time, the time required to develop trust and build rapport with the CASA is increased as well.
Anytime a child is abused or neglected, it’s a tragedy – one that often scars victims for a lifetime. The latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are sobering:
- Child Protective Services agencies across the United States received some 3.6 million referrals of abuse or neglect involving 6.6 million children in 2014.
- An estimated 1,580 children died from child abuse or neglect in 2014, nearly three-quarters of them younger than age 3.
- 706 Lancaster County children were in foster care throughout 2014.
Studies have shown that children who have suffered abuse or neglect are more likely to struggle in school, have run-ins with law enforcement, experience homelessness or abuse drugs or alcohol. Research also shows that abused children are more apt to grow up to abuse their own kids.
At CASA of Lancaster County, we help abused and neglected children heal so they can live happier, safer lives. Our CASA volunteers – court-appointed special advocates – make sure kids don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service systems or languish in foster homes. CASA volunteers stay with children until their court case is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home.
During April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we invite our community to learn more about the work we do and consider becoming a CASA volunteer.
CASA of Lancaster County provides qualified and compassionate court appointed volunteer advocacy for children of abuse and neglect in the belief that every child deserves a safe, nurturing, and permanent home. CASA volunteers believe that growing up in a safe home is a fundamental human right.
For information about becoming involved with CASA, call 717-208-3280, email casa@CASALancaster.org, or visit www.casalancaster.org.
Not everyone can be a CASA volunteer, but everyone can be an advocate by taking steps to make our community safer for our children:
- Be mindful of the signs of abuse and neglect in children, such as a lack of adult supervision, extreme passivity or aggression or poor hygiene.
- Be aware of warning signs in parents, such as showing indifference or rarely touching or looking at their child, constant verbal criticism, demands for perfection, blaming the child for family problems or other irrational behaviors.
- If you think a child is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate – call 911.
- If you believe a child is being abused or neglected, report your suspicions confidentially to the PA ChildLine and Abuse Registry at 800-932-0313.
Working together, we can end abuse and neglect so that every child has a chance to thrive.