Did you know that April is Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month? One of northern Nevada’s longest-serving child advocacy groups has been selected as one of the beneficiaries of support from Montreux Cares and Montreux members. Washoe CASA Foundation works to prevent child abuse by advocating for Nevada’s endangered youth, and by providing one-on-one court-approved child advocates for children who are abused or neglected, faced with foster care, and subjects of the Washoe County Family Court system. There are over 700 children in foster care in Washoe County and only one in seven have a CASA volunteer adv
Imagine that you are a young child who has been living with a parent or parents who abuse you. Maybe your parents don’t mean to harm you, but they are caught in the web of drug addiction or suffer from mental illness. Regardless of the abuse or neglect, you love your parents, and you are accustomed to the life you live. One day, strangers take you away to an overnight shelter. Days later, you move into a foster home. You don’t completely understand why you have been taken from your home. You are now learning that you have to change schools, make new friends, get to know an entirely new family, go to appointments with social workers, attend court hearings. You may go through several foster home placements. You are traumatized. Everything has changed. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 686,000 children are the victims of abuse and neglect each year. In Washoe County, there are currently over 700 children in the foster care system due to abuse and neglect. Studies have reported that without a consistent, caring supportive person in the child’s life, his or her chances of attaining a successful adult life are greatly diminished. The Washoe CASA Foundation recruits and retains caring adults to become Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs). Each advocate forms a relationship with the child, gets to know the environment around the child, and conveys this critical information to the court. CASA volunteers are trained to learn about the foster care system, navigate the legal system and speak in court to advocate for the best interests of the child. Judges count on CASA volunteers to help them make the best possible decisions for the child’s physical and emotional well-being. CASAs are a constant, positive influence for the child, assuring that the child will be heard and supported through their foster care journey. The Washoe CASA Foundation also provides financial resources to enable CASA volunteers to secure services, activities and other support for their CASA child, such as after school tutoring, recreational programs, birthday celebrations, school supplies and Christmas gifts. We hope that this direct support will give a child a sense of value and importance. Our goal for 2021 is to increase the number of CASA volunteers by 30% to support foster children in the community. Currently, only one in seven foster children in the community have a CASA advocate. Increasing advocacy for these children will require a concentrated effort on community awareness, volunteer recruitment and additional resources to train and support volunteers. There is a child in foster care waiting for a caring CASA volunteer to give them a chance to dream, to play and a chance to feel safe. The Washoe CASA Foundation is dedicated to “Change a Child’s Story” and help them to thrive.