06/04/2009 10:36 AM
Every year, roughly 1,200 Johnson & Wyandotte county children enter the foster care system due to suspected parental abuse or neglect. CASA of Johnson & Wyandotte Counties is a local nonprofit organization that recruits and trains community volunteers to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. To raise awareness and support for these vulnerable children, the local CASA program hosted a Forgotten Children Exhibit earlier this week at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. The 400 life-size displays represented the number of children served by CASA in a year, and the one in four foster children who have an advocate.
The stand-up displays held actual messages from foster children, all gathered from a recent national study commissioned by the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association. In the words of one youth: “If you want the foster care system to get better, if you have compassion in your heart, don’t stop doing whatever you can to make it better — even if it’s just by providing an ear. Be someone we can talk to. You are the one that can create the change.”
“Nothing touches your heart more than helping to change the life of a child from one filled with hurt to one full of hope,” said Nina Kimbrough-Smith, Volunteer Recruitment and Education Director for CASA of Johnson & Wyandotte Counties. “Let’s stand up for our foster children, so they can stand a chance for the future.”
The agency also hosted a CASA Day at the T-Bones on Sunday afternoon.
CASA of Johnson & Wyandotte Counties is a member of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, a network of nearly 950 local community programs that recruit and train citizen volunteers to advocate for the rights of abused and neglected children. On average, foster children spend more than two years in the child welfare system, and can be moved as often as 15 times, negatively impacting their education, friendships and sense of belonging.
CASA volunteers help to alleviate the constant upheaval faced by foster children. Research shows that:
• Children with a CASA volunteer are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care, defined as three years or longer.
• A child is less likely to move from home to home when a CASA volunteer is involved.
• A child with a CASA volunteer is 95% less likely to re-enter the foster care system.
Program outcomes for CASA of Johnson & Wyandotte Counties show that 100% of children are kept safe from additional abuse or neglect while a CASA volunteer is assigned, and 93% of children served remain in a safe home two years following case closure.
For more information on the Forgotten Children Exhibit or how you can be a CASA supporter or volunteer, contact CASA of Johnson & Wyandotte Counties at 913.715.4040 or visit www.casajwc.org.
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About The Forgotten Children Campaign
The Forgotten Children campaign kicked off May 19, 2008, with a dramatic display of 4,250 life size cutouts of children placed in the shadow of The Washington Monument, representing each child who entered the foster care system in that week alone. The campaign will continue throughout 2009, helping to raise awareness on a local level for the need for support and volunteers with CASA programs across the nation.