In the time it takes to read this, more than 30 cases of child abuse will have been reported to authorities nationwide. By the end of today, that number will swell past 9,000. Four of those children will die at the hands of their abuser. All in a single day.
When we take stock of these sobering statistics it is easy to become overwhelmed. However, we all ask the question, “What can I possibly do to make a difference?”
The answer is this: everybody can play a role in preventing child abuse and neglect by becoming advocates for children. You can donate money, offer pro-bono support or become a mentor or advocate with organizations that help children and families, such as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children.
CASA advocates stand up for abused and neglected children who are now living in foster care. CASA volunteers are people just like you – teachers, business people, retirees, grandparents, young professionals – anyone who is willing to help a child in need. These advocates give children a voice in an overburdened child welfare system and can help break the cycle of abuse and neglect by helping children find safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.
Children with a CASA are half as likely to re-enter the foster care system, have improved educational achievement and are less likely to end up homeless, be involved in crime or become drug addicted. CASA volunteers are making a profound difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of abused and neglected children not only across the country, but serve nearly 500 children right here in Atlantic and Cape May Counties. But because of the increased number of children in care coupled with the challenge of recruiting advocates, many children are left without a voice to fight for their rights.
While not everyone can be a CASA volunteer, everyone can be a child advocate.
Here are some steps you can take to make our community safer for our children:
Keep the child abuse hotline number close at hand, 1-800 NJ Abuse. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you can report your suspicions confidentially. Volunteer for a social service agency that helps children who have been abused or neglected. Educate yourself – and others – about the devastating toll that abuse and neglect take on children and on our society as a whole.
We must all take proactive steps to eradicate this problem. Children need to be protected from abuse and neglect, and we all have the ability to make a difference now. Please, spread the word and let us all work together to protect our most vulnerable children…it literally saves lives.
We all have a role to play. What will yours be?
David Hieb, Board President CASA of Atlantic and Cape May Counties