The end of summer and the start of a new school year is an exciting time for most children. But for some, the beginning of school could reveal a dark secret when signs of abuse and neglect these children have suffered over the summer are noticed by teachers, staff and other parents.
“Because children are subject to less adult supervision over the summer, it’s not uncommon for reports of suspected abuse and neglect to spike at the start of the school year,” said Karen Biernacki, CEO of Family Advocates.
Many of the children who are confirmed as victims are removed from their homes and placed into foster care — often far from their friends, families and schools. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers from La Porte County CASA are specially screened and trained to speak up for abused and neglected children who, through no fault of their own, end up in the foster care system.
“Being uprooted from their homes and families is scary for these children. We at La Porte County CASA want to make sure that they do not get lost in the overburdened foster care system,” Biernacki said. “For that reason, we need more people in our community to speak up and make sure these children’s voices are heard. We want to help ensure that their stay in foster care is as short as possible and that they are placed in safe, loving homes quickly so they can begin to heal.”
The Department of Child Services has reported an all time high in incidents of substantiated cases of abuse and neglect and has begun hiring additional caseworkers to meet the current need. The La Porte County CASA Program is feeling this strain with 174 children on the caseload and only 45 CASA volunteers to advocate for their best interests. As of August, there are over 60 children on a waiting list as the program recruits, screens and trains additional volunteers.
“Too many children are forced to go through the chaos of moving through the child protection system alone,” Biernacki said. “The La Porte County CASA Program needs more volunteers to step up and be a voice for children who desperately need them.”
This school year, become a CASA volunteer and help children in need find safe, permanent homes. For more information, visit lpfamilyadvocates.com or call 219-324-3385.