Editorial: Become an advocate to raise awareness, help prevent child abuse
National Child Abuse Prevention Month ends Friday. The work, however, on behalf of abused and neglected children, doesn't stop.
At noon Thursday at the Kane County Courthouse in downtown Geneva, CASA Kane County will host its Hands Around the Courthouse program, which it has done every year since 2004.
HATCH is part of a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of and prevent child abuse. Community members and people from law enforcement, business, religious leaders and others who have formed partnerships to educate others about child abuse and find ways to prevent it, gather for a ceremony and end by joining hands for a moment of silence acknowledging young victims of abuse and neglect.
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is a Guardian ad Litem "volunteer organization advocating for the best interests of children in abuse, neglect, and probate court within the Juvenile Justice system."
The organization works with the judiciary, the Department of Children and Family Services and other agencies to ensure children in foster care are placed in safe, permanent homes.
To reach that end, volunteers are recruited, trained and then appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of the child inside and outside the courtroom. Volunteers meet with the child, talk to the parents, foster parents, teachers and medical professionals and submit a report to the judge before each court hearing. The average case lasts about three years. The CASA volunteer recommends placement and appropriate services to the judge, and follows up until the case is closed.
There are CASA groups in Cook, Lake, DuPage, McHenry, Will, DeKalb and Kendall counties, all part of a national program among 948 state organizations and local programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia.
CASA Kane County, which was started in 1988, has seen a surge in cases since the pandemic, according to a spokeswoman. The rise, she said, "has been so great that for the first time in the organization's history, CASA does not have enough volunteers to serve every foster child in the system."
CASA Kane County served 331 children and handled 114 probate/private guardianship cases in 2019. A year later, the numbers increased to 428 children and 136 cases.
Research shows advocacy works. Kids teamed with a CASA volunteer are more likely to find a permanent home, do better in school and have improved access to medical professionals. The goal is an abuse-free life in a loving environment. You can help make that happen.
In Kane County, call (630) 444-3131. To report suspected abuse or neglect, call (800) 252-2873.