Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Matter of Numbers

118 ... the number of school buses it would take to carry all of the foster children in my city
5.5 ... the number of miles those buses would stretch to carry those children
200 ... the number of children who enter the foster care system monthly in my city
30-50 ... the average number of children assigned to a social worker
300 ... the average number of children represented by a single attorney
900 ... the average number for cases reviewed by a single judge
40% ... the percentage of foster children who will remain in foster care until 18 years old
50% ... the percentage of foster children who will NOT finish or graduate high school

1 ... the number of people it takes to make a huge, positive difference in a child's life.

1 ... me.

Children in the foster care system don't have voices, and are often mistaken for delinquent children. But these children are victims, separated from everything they know, through no fault of their own. And the systems are overburdened that these children don't have someone looking out just for them. A wonderful woman came and spoke at mass several weeks ago abouVoices for Children, a non-profit organization that trains adult volunteers to advocate for these children. They train CASA's, Court Appointed Special Advocates. Adults dedicated to a child or several children (often siblings), making their voices heard and making certain that their needs get met.

I went to the information meeting tonight, and am really excited to get involved. I'm working on my volunteer application and have my personal interview scheduled for Monday afternoon. There was a woman there, let's call her Sally, she's been a CASA for a few years now. She shared her story with us, and I was inspired by her passion and fire, her dedication and motivation. There are over 300 children on the waiting list to get a CASA. That's a lot of kids who don't have an adult dedicated to looking out for them. These are only a fraction of the total children in the foster care system. These are children without voices, who have lost their voices through no fault of their own, who often times have experienced horrible things at the hands of the adults entrusted with their care. Voices for Children pairs these children with adult volunteers who spend time with them and learn about their needs. They attend their court hearings and file reports to advocate for these children, and another number? 85% of CASA recommendations are accepted by the court. Recommendations made by people who spend a significant amount of time and are there for these children and really know what they need-know on a deeper level not available to social workers with 30-50 kids to watch out for, lawyers with 300 kids or judges who oversee 900 cases. ONE. That's all it takes. It's mind blowing to think about. All those numbers. But I can make a difference. One person is all it takes to help a child, to make a positive and lasting impact on a child who has been torn away from the familiarity and comfort of everything they know. And that's pretty cool


EatPlayLove said...

we have a local CASA program it's wonderful. What a great way to give back and provide consistency to those children that get overlooked.

Bottles Barbies & Boys said...

Heart breaking isn't it?

Jaina said...

EatPlayLove-It really is. I'm excited to get started with training so I can start helping out.

Johnina-It truly is.

Lura said...

Only one person is all it takes. You are absolutely correct. And the numbers of people in and from foster care are up in the millions....just in this country. Great post!

Jaina said...

Lura-Thank you so much :) Thanks for stopping by. I hope to "see" you around soon.

Anonymous said...

I work with these wonderful children every single day, at my innercity school. It is so hard for me not to take them home. CASA or any mentoring program is a wonderful thing. It means so very much to the children. Many times they act like they don't care, but then they miss you like crazy and want to know how soon they can see you again.
I think it is wonderful. I think you would be PERFECT for it. My husband's aunt was a CASA in VA for a long, long time. It changed her life in a good way.

Jaina said...

Eileen-I'm excited to get started. Had to postpone my interview because things have been so busy I haven't had time to finish my application. But I'm still super excited. Thank you so much!

Shawn said...

Good for you!! This is an awesome program. You WILL make a huge difference ... so long as you stick with it. It really takes a solid year of this kind of volunteering to see and feel results. Have fun with it.

Yay for you!

Jaina said...

Shawn- Thank you! I'm really excited. The position I'm applying to volunteer for requires a minimum 18 month commitment, but I'm planning to be around MUCH longer than that. These kids need some stability, long term stability. I'm hoping to provide that. Thank you so much. :)