In the words of Stitch from Disney’s “Lilo and Stitch,” “Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” While that statement may be true in the idealistic world of a fictional blue koala, it rings hollow in the ears of many abused and neglected children—and for good reason. They have suffered in some way because of the action or inaction of their caregivers and, as a result, are forced to leave all that is familiar. And while this separation—for the toddler or the teenager—is for their own safety, it is an additional trauma piled onto the enormous load they are expected to carry.
When these children are taken into care, their identity is often traded for anonymity as they are labeled by a case number and often become the proverbial “needle” in the haystack of other pending cases. As a result, they often languish in the foster care system far longer than expected or necessary. In addition, their immediate and long-term needs are often overlooked simply because of the volume of a typical caseload. But what if these children had ONE PERSON who was devoted to their safety and well-being, able to give individualized attention to their unique situations? That could make a world of difference…and it does!
That one person is a CASA—a Court Appointed Special Advocate who is assigned to a case where one or more children in a family have been placed in the foster care system. The advocate gathers information regarding the immediate and eventual needs of the children in order to make recommendations for what is in their best interest. With the appointment of a CASA, the length of time children remain in foster care decreases from three years to eighteen months, and there is a 98% success rate of placement in safe and permanent homes. The presence of a CASA is also a source of consistent support amid the chaos that accompanies removal from the home. This may very well be the most significant role played by a CASA, since the consistent presence of one caring adult is the distinguishing factor between children who rise above their childhood trauma and those who are buried beneath it.
If you are interested in learning more about CASA, visit the vyjla.org website and click on the CASA program logo. Also on the website, you will find the link to our online application by clicking the Be a Casa button. Feel free to email us at email@example.com for additional information or to schedule an interview.