“There is no keener revelation of society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children” – Nelson Mandela
It’s that time of year again when people of all ages are heading back to their families and homes. The holidays are quickly approaching and it’s a time where we find ourselves surrounded by the comfort of familiar faces and family. Young and old alike, one can simply not deny the pleasures of being home.
Unfortunately, for many of the children in Indianapolis this year, there is no going “home for the holidays.” For them, this warm, loving, comforting place does not exist. These children have been removed from their homes because they have been victims of life-threatening abuse or neglect. They have likely been placed in foster care and will spend their holidays surrounded not by friends and family, but by strangers in a strange place.
It’s a difficult fact that children in Indiana are entering the foster care system at nearly twice the national rate. Child Advocates is responsible for representing all children in Indianapolis (roughly 25% of the state’s cases) throughout the duration of their court case. Last year, Child Advocates represented over 9,000 children.
So why is this happening? What’s the cause of all these new children being brought into the system? It seems like there is no concrete answer. Many believe it may be drug related. Parents using drugs are producing substance addicted infants and neglecting children in the home. This drug usage generates more domestic violence, more substance abuse and more child abuse and neglect.
Child Advocates Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Booth, states “Indiana has had children coming into the child welfare system at an alarming rate, twice the national average. Our communities have been severely affected by the opioid crisis, as well as other addictive behaviors and the shortage of mental health services for children and families.”
Chief of Programs at Child Advocates, Gregg Ellis, has spend more than 20 years serving children in the child welfare system and believes there are a combination of reasons that have lead Indiana children into this crisis. “The opioid epidemic hit Indiana at a later date than many other states and has hopefully peaked. It is also likely that Indiana offers less opportunities for voluntary participation and services related to neglect situations,” said Ellis.
There is no definite answer to this injustice against our children, but there is something we can do to help provide a glimmer of hope in these times of instability.
By providing these children the guarantee of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer, Child Advocates can provide them a consistent, positive adult role model from their community that will encourage them to thrive.
CASA Volunteers speak up for children who’ve been abused or neglected by empowering our community volunteers as advocates for them in the court system. When the state steps in to protect a child’s safety, a judge appoints a trained CASA Volunteer to make independent and informed recommendations in the child’s best interest. After 30 hours of intensive training and courtroom observation, background checks and being sworn in by a judge, volunteers are appointed to a child or family of children and spend an average of 8-10 hours a month advocating for these children for the lifetime of a case.
Child Advocates is in desperate need of new CASA Volunteers to represent children who are victims of abuse and neglect in our community. It is our responsibility to make sure we have caring people advocating for them in court.
Please consider being a CASA Volunteer. All children deserve a safe and secure home free of abuse and neglect. You can be the change that impacts a child’s life forever.