Have we forgotten the village? Call for community to reengage as volunteers for children needed
"It takes a village to raise a child" is an African proverb that means an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to grow in a safe and healthy environment. It also became a popular saying in American culture several decades back. - Wikipedia
CivicChamps.com "2022 Volunteering Trends" states: "Gallup reports that volunteering is below pre-pandemic levels, at 56% of Americans reporting participation in volunteer activities. This is similar to levels faced during the Great Recession, over 10 years ago. On the flip side, CivicScience, finding similar levels of volunteerism in their respondents (49%), reports that volunteerism is actually exceeding pre-pandemic levels. In fact, 26% of their respondents say they volunteer every month or more. That, with similar percentages, Gallup and Civic Science make different conclusions about the trend of volunteerism pre-pandemic and currently indicates that the pre-pandemic volunteerism statistics are different for each source. As such, it is difficult to see exactly how the state of volunteering states today as opposed to two years ago. It is safe to say, however, that around half of U.S. adults are participating in volunteer activities at this point in time. There is a hope that this will increase: 36% of those surveyed in the latest Points of Light report plan to volunteer more than before the pandemic, with 24% saying that volunteering is more important now than ever."
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Kane County is a nonprofit organization that trains and supervises community volunteers to ensure the safety, permanency, and best interests for 100% of abused and neglected child cases.
Child victims come from every economic and cultural background in our community. CASA Kane County ensures that each foster child is placed in a safe, permanent home and that their needs, ranging from medical care to educational support, are met with urgency.
CASA believes that every child has the right to a safe, nurturing, and permanent home and deserves the support and involvement of the community to make this possible. Services save significant dollars to the courts and ultimately, taxpayers.
The effects of child abuse to a child and a community are long-lasting; community support is the key component to the success of our children. CASA Kane County is a GAL (guardian ad litem) program, which means that volunteers are appointed as officers of the court and are significantly relied upon by judges to act in the court case on behalf of a child. This greater authority requires volunteer training and organizational standards to be at a heightened level of compliance.
"Unfortunately, the dramatic rise in child abuse cases that we began to see during the pandemic are not showing any signs of slowing down," states CASA Kane County Executive Director Jim Di Ciaula. "CASA has experienced a 217% increase in cases since the pandemic started and for the first time in history, we have a record level of children awaiting a CASA/GAL volunteer.
"Staff advocate supervisors cover these children so we can continue to serve 100% of cases, while consequently CASA must aggressively recruit volunteers on an on-going basis to be able to continue keeping up with the numbers," Di Ciaula said.
"Even though we serve every abused or neglected child case originating from Kane County, more than 40% of children served are placed with relatives, foster homes, or group residential facilities in and around Illinois," Di Ciaula said. "We have been advised by DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) and the State's Attorney's Office that they anticipate numbers will continue to rise for some time, as will the growing service areas."
Chief Judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit Court Clint Hull recently wrote: "… a case, on average would take 18 months, with an estimated cost of $36,000 a case … For 2021, 198 cases were filed, the total GAL cost is estimated at $7,128,000 … If CASA didn't exist in Kane County, we would be forced to work together to find a way to appoint GALs but significantly reduce the amount of time the GAL spent on the case in order to reduce our expenses. This, of course, would be detrimental to the children, family, and the court system."
While the annual cost to recruit, train, supervise, and manage a CASA/GAL volunteer, in addition to providing incidentals and needed life essentials to a youth, is $5,000 per foster child, donations as small as $25 can provide a hygiene care package for a foster youth. The average length of each case is one to three years. It is anticipated CASA Kane County will serve more than 600 children this year.
Research proves that CASA advocacy works. Studies reveal that children who have been assigned CASA volunteers are significantly less likely to spend time in long-term foster care. A child with a CASA volunteer is also more likely to do better in school, have better conduct, and more likely to find a permanent home. Children with a CASA have greater access to doctors, dentists, and other medical and mental health professionals for ongoing well-being. For children whose pasts have been chaotic and whose futures are uncertain, the CASA volunteer is frequently the most consistent, interested presence in their lives.
"Volunteers come from every background and range from age 21 on up. Volunteers need no prior training. We train and support you every step of the way," Di Ciaula said. "Being a CASA is a unique way to love children and our community as a whole. Our volunteers are among the most respected in the community."
CASA Kane County is currently seeking volunteers to serve children throughout Illinois.
To learn more, visit the organization's website at www.casakanecounty.org or call (630) 232-4484.
CASA Kane County Youth in Care statistics for 2021Ages: age 0-5, 47%; age 6-11, 29%; age 12-14, 10%; age 14-17, 7%; and age 18-21, 7%
Ethnicity/race: Hispanic/Latino, 33%; Caucasian, 26%; African American, 23%; and multiracial, 14%.
Gender: Male, 56%; and female, 44%
Reasons for case closures are: return home, 56%; adoption, 18%; aged out, 9%; guardianship, 8%; other, 5%; and case transferred, 4%.
Learn about becoming a volunteer with CASA Kane County at the next informational meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 17, from 9 to 10 a.m. online. Learn more at casakanecounty.org/general-information-meetings/