Everyone Can Be A Youth Advocate

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Every year more than 20,000 youth across the country age out of the foster care system. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children of Atlantic and Cape May Counties is one local organization that is trying to help older foster youth make lasting connections and prepare for adulthood if they leave foster care without a permanent home. As many as 50 percent of youth who age out of foster care are likely to become homeless.

CASA has seen first-hand the negative effects of youth lingering in the foster care system. Youth ages seven to 17 are at greater risk of not finding a permanent home and aging out of the system. This means many age out of the child welfare system at age 18 with no family to call their own. These youth have minimal skills, a high school education, at best, and lack the basic knowledge to live on their own. You can imagine what happens to these youth. Homeless, jobless or underemployed, these youth can turn to crime and drugs as a means to survive. A young person bereft of any family ties lacks the foundation and guidance that all youth need as they mature into adulthood.

Having permanent adult and family connections, like a CASA volunteer, provides teenagers with the critical legal and emotional support that all young people need as they transition into adulthood and possibly continue their education, seek employment, and start new relationships.

CASA volunteers specifically help this age group by encouraging educational achievement, ensuring sibling and parental visits to keep family relations intact, recommending appropriate long-term placements and helping improve social relations. CASA’s number one priority is to help them find a permanent home so they do not age out of the system. If a permanent home is not possible, we want them to be as prepared for the future as they can be.

Not everyone will be a CASA volunteer, but everyone can be a youth advocate.

Here are some thing you can do to help older youth in need:

  1. Become a CASA volunteer or mentor an older youth
  2. Financially support organizations that work with teens
  3. Volunteer with an agency that provides assistance to teens
  4. Support legislators who promote laws supporting positive outcomes for foster youth
  5. Speak out and advocate against laws that may negatively effect foster youth
  6. Help others understand the need to help all youth experience equal opportunity

When we work together to protect vulnerable youth, it literally saves lives. We all have a role to play, what will yours be?


Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation to protect a child’s right to be safe, treated with respect and to help them reach their fullest potential. For more information about CASA, visit AtlanticCapeCASA.org.

Permanent Homes

In honor of National Adoption Month, we are featuring four short antidotes from CASA volunteers that highlight the joy of helping a child realize their “forever home.”

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CASA John

“For me, finding a forever family for a child means I have kept my word to a frightened/grumpy six year old who had experienced a removal from a possible forever home when her older sister was told by their resource Mom to “get lost” and ran away.  The girls were back at an Aunt’s house when I went to visit them after this incident.  The six year old was sulking on the top bunk bed in their room as I was sitting on the lower bunk talking with the older girl about her recent adventures. Despite my friendly “hello” to her, she’d already announced that she wasn’t going to talk to me. All of a sudden, this little face, upside down with pigtails pointed toward the floor comes nose to nose with me and she shouted “I just wanna know one thing – am I gonna have to move again?”  I firmly stated, “not if I can help it!” At that point I would have moved heaven and earth to make my statement a reality. Attending their eventual adoption ceremony was, and always will be, one of the most satisfying moments of my life.”


CASA Nina

“As a  CASA, my experience with helping children find a forever family has been very rewarding and most of all humbling.  The children that I have advocated for were so loving and so forgiving, and most of all resilient, as a volunteer advocate this process of gathering information and inquiring about certain situations and circumstances made it possible for my horizons to be broadened. Finding the forever family is an experience that is so uplifting that it encourages one to always better themselves therefore, always striving to better the life of the next child or children that have the great advantage of being advocated for by a CASA.”


CASA Jack

“Yesterday I delivered two “adoption bears”, ending a long saga of three + years.  It was great to visit these brothers, now six and five, and realize they are now part of their permanent family and that I had a role in this successful outcome!”


CASA Carol

The day that Sandi was adopted is Carol’s most significant memory as a CASA volunteer. “She saw me and ran down the hall yelling my name and wrapping her arms around my legs.” Carol said. “I lifted her up, and she was all smiles. That experience was more than enough reward for my efforts.”

Many children, like Sandi, have no hope of being reunified with their biological families. Even if it is in the best interest of the children, “the voluntary surrender of the parental rights by the parents is a difficult process for me personally to witness,” Carol said. These children deserve a proper start in life, and without adoptive parents, they will be surrendered to growing up in the foster care system.

 


Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation to protect a child’s right to be safe, treated with respect and to help them reach their fullest potential. For more information about CASA, visit AtlanticCapeCASA.org.