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Michael Piraino

Michael Piraino

Posted: February 28, 2011 12:07 PM

Recent news reports covering the horrific case of the abuse and neglect suffered by 10-year-old twins Nubia and Victor Barahona once again remind us of the tragedies that are all the more disturbing when the children involved have been under the care of the child welfare system.

There are over 400,000 children in that system right now -- each with his or her own story. Many get the support and love they need to thrive; others, like the Barahona twins, regrettably do not. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to these young victims and those close to them.

At times like this, we must recognize a collective responsibility to do everything possible to avoid further injury to all those children living in foster care. I do not believe these children are the sole responsibility of government systems, as important as those systems are and as urgent as it is to ensure they operate effectively. It is essential that the voice of communities -- of every community in this country -- be involved in watching out for the well-being of these children.

This is the work that my organization and our 70,000 Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers take on every day. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to fight for and protect a child's right to be safe and to be treated with respect and dignity. All of us must make a pledge to fight on behalf of these children until every child can thrive in the safe embrace of a loving family.

I take as a sign of hope the outpouring of support from people asking how they can become volunteers for other abused and neglected children. In fact, the morning after the show aired on the Maria Elvira Salazar Live Show we received more calls than we typically get in a month. This affirms that our citizens, far from being paralyzed by this terrible tragedy, will stand up for abused children.

So, even as we mourn the terrible tragedy of Nubia and Victor Barahona, we take heart that many who heard the story are reaching out to make a difference. We will not succeed for every child in foster care, but our strength is in numbers and we know with certainty that the more volunteers we have, the greater will be our impact.

The legacy of the Barahona twins and their story is a call to action.