Advocating for Young Children in Foster Care

CASA Volunteer, Nancy Kot is a powerful representative in the courtroomfor children living in foster care under the age of five. “The care of these young children is of extreme importance, since they are completely dependent upon their caretakers for their survival,” Nancy said.
CASA Volunteers advocate in family court on behalf of abused and neglected children in foster care and are dedicated to helping these children find a safe, permanent home. Working on her third case, Nancy is known for her calm and non-judgmental demeanor with the biological and foster care families. Because the children cannot communicate, it is essential to listen to all parties involved. “I develop a trust with all the adult caretakers so they will open up to me; while at the same time, making it clear that I must remain neutral,” she explained. Working with young birth parents can be challenging. Often insecure or self-centered, they need extra guidance to make their children a priority, Nancy said.
Kelley Waterfall, Kot’s CASA Case Supervisor said, “Nancy has shown a great ability to connect with the birth parents to provide the best outcomes for her foster children.”
When working with young children, she tries to notice how the baby bonds with the caretakers because affection eases the separation from the biological parents, Nancy explained. “These babies are at the beginning stages of learning how to love and these early attachments are very important,” Nancy said.
As CASA Volunteers, it is important that we understand the various stages of growth and development for different ages, because addressing developmental delays with early intervention services can help detect health concerns and learning disabilities. CASA Volunteers must observe the child’s surroundings to identify the level of safety in the home and to ensure the home is child proof, and adequate food and diapers are available, Nancy explained.
Unlike other volunteer opportunities, a CASA Volunteer has a significant responsibility to fully represent the needs and rights of a child, but the satisfaction of positively changing a child’s life is the greatest reward, she said.
With perceptiveness, familiarity in infant-care, and a considerate manner, Nancy Kot effectively and passionately speaks up for children, whose stories too often go unheard. “Children, who are being neglected and abused by the very people that they look to for unconditional love and care, [their stories] are heartbreaking,” Nancy said.

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Beyond the Conversation

by Michael Piraino, CEO, National CASA Assocation

The child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State has sparked a nationwide conversation about how to recognize, report and prevent the sexual abuse of children. This is as it should be. Almost no one believes they would allow harmful sexual behavior to continue to if they knew for sure that it was going on. And many are certain they would recognize exploitive or abusive behavior if it were happening. However, if that were the case we wouldn’t have statistics like these:

  • 63,940 children were confirmed victims of sexual abuse in 2010.1
  • Theannual cost of personal crimes, including child abuse, is estimated to be $450 billion.2
  • Child sexual abuse is often undisclosed by the child and unreported by adults when they do become aware of it.3

Why is this? There are a number of reasons. First, we need to get comfortable talking about this issue. Unfortunately, abuse will continue to happen unless we provide people with accurate and balanced information, practical resources, and access to support when they do take action to keep children safe. The risk of shame or rejection should not outweigh the risk of remaining silent.

Second, we need to ask questions of the institutions and organizations that work with children about their policies and practices and how each are implemented. As a child advocacy organization, National CASA has a standardized, comprehensive training program for volunteer advocates. At every level, CASA programs have clear policies and guidelines in place for the protection of the children we serve.

Third, we cannot rely exclusively on government systems to protect our children. Each of us has a responsibility, and because we share the risk of inaction, we must jointly protect the well being of our children. We have to find ways for those with the knowledge and experience in advocating for children to collectively raise their voices and ensure that they are heard loudly and clearly across the country. What is needed now is a movement to mobilize public and private support for shaping new policies, generating new investments, and creating a common vision for protecting children against abuse.

At CASA for Children, we are privileged to work alongside creative and innovative child welfare services organizations whose leaders have firsthand knowledge of the needs of the children in their communities and have developed workable approaches to address those needs. We’ve known for years that investing in our children is one of the best investments we can make—public or private. Now is the time to go beyond the conversation and take action. Add your voice today.