It's a topic many of us, including myself, find difficult to think about but the numbers are staggering. Approximately 3 million reports of child abuse are made a year in the United States though it is estimated that the actual number of incidents of abuse and neglect is about three times more than what is reported. Since 1983, April has been recognized as National Child Abuse Prevention Month -- a time to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect and encourage individuals and communities to support children and families.
However there is hope! Many groups and nonprofit organizations are working to stop this abuse of children. This blog will focus on two of them: Prevent Child Abuse America and CASA.
Prevent Child Abuse America is one of many nonprofit organizations in this country whose main focus is to prevent abuse and neglect before it happens through educating and making the community, parents, and children aware of prevention programs, support groups, and the affect abuse and neglect can have on not only the child but the community as well. Some of these children who still fall victim to abuse are placed into the foster care system by state authorities. This is meant to be a short-term alternative while determining one of the following three permanent solutions: reunification with the biological parent, conversion of the foster home to legally permanent guardianship or adoption, or placement of the child into another legally permanent family.
Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America) was founded in 1972 and was the first organization founded in this nation whose sole purpose is to prevent child abuse and neglect. PCA America works at both the governmental and community level to assure systems are in place to make prevention possible. With its national headquarters located in Chicago, PCA America has chapters in 47 states and manages over 353 different locally based strategies that help meet the mission. Many notables are involved, including Bill Cosby, Tamia Hill, Jack Nicklaus, Bob Costas, Michael Bolton, Grant Hill and Tommie Harris who all serve on the National Honorary Board.
CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, helps children across the country find safe and permanent homes where they can thrive. It started in Seattle, Washington, in 1977 as a vision from a judge who was frustrated by the lack of substantive information presented to him in child abuse and neglect proceedings. He decided these children needed a voice and an advocate that spoke just for them and with this idea a movement and organization was born! Today, community volunteers are recruited and trained to provide child protection judges with vital information about the very complex lives of court-involved children and their families. These CASA volunteers represent and have the children's interests in court as their primary objective.
Since CASA's beginning, more than 70,000 CASA volunteers have served over 1 million children nationwide. Currently there are more than 955 county programs in 49 states. When a CASA volunteer is involved, a child is less likely to move from home to home and are 95 percent less likely to re-enter the foster care system.
But today, more than 60 percent of the children in the foster care system do not have a CASA! We can change that. Recently, the popular talk show host, Dr. Phil, dedicated an episode to this topic and organization speaking with CASA's President. Dr. Phil and his wife, Robin, made a commitment. According to the CASA website, "Robin and I are passionate about supporting CASA because we know a CASA volunteer is the essential, proven solution for a child in the foster care and child welfare system. As official spokespersons of the I am for the child™ campaign and longtime supporters, we have seen the success of CASA firsthand." They are looking for your help to mobilize 100,000 new CASA supporters, raising much needed funds to help abused and neglected children who are in need of a CASA volunteer.
Here are five tips for ways you can become involved and make a difference:
• Learn more about the warning signs of child abuse; by simply becoming knowledgeable you will be making a difference
• Consider becoming a CASA volunteer
• Make a financial donation to either the national organizations, Prevent Child Abuse America or CASA, or their local chapters and groups
• Volunteer at a child abuse prevention organization; for some of us working with children who are abused could be too difficult, but know there are many opportunities to get involved that will help
• Make your home a safe place for children; work to be accessible so children who might be suffering from abuse have a place to go and a person to speak with about what is happening to them
It is often said children are our most valuable resource. Let's work together to make sure they are protected and safe. By becoming involved you will be making a difference (M.A.D.)! What can you do to be M.A.D.?