Children in foster care need your help now more than ever.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected those populations that are already vulnerable, including children in foster care. For more than 6 months, children in Cook County child protection have not been provided many vital in-person services or court hearings. News reports have highlighted that children are at greater risk for abuse and neglect due to the stresses of the pandemic, yet reports to DCFS are down as mandated reporters such as teachers do not have in-person contact with the children. While government and private giving has mobilized to fill the gaps for those at risk during the pandemic, very little funding has been allocated to the child welfare system.
A year of CASA advocacy costs $1,500, which is a fraction of the cost of a year of foster care.
CASA volunteers are stepping up by remaining one of the few constant adults in the lives of the children during the pandemic.
CASA provides vital and life-changing services for Cook County’s foster youth, with volunteers working one-on-one with children who have suffered abuse and/or neglect. CASA volunteer advocates are trained, unpaid citizens who are court appointed to advocate for children in state protective care and act as objective “eyes and ears” of the court. They submit reports to the court to ensure that child safety and well-being are at the forefront of court decisions, thereby enhancing positive outcomes and reducing the likelihood of foster care “drift,” or lengthy placement without movement toward court resolution.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, CASA volunteers continue to creatively advocate for the children to whom they are assigned. They are in touch with the children, foster and biological parents, and service providers via phone and video conferencing to ensure the children are safe and that there are no gaps in service. With school back in session, CASA volunteers are ensuring the children have all the necessary technology, tools, and resources to have a successful year despite remote learning.
CASA is nationally recognized as a powerful tool for improving the outcomes for children in protective custody.
Studies have shown that children with a CASA volunteer spend a shorter amount of time in foster care, are less likely to reenter protective custody, and have better outcomes in terms of education, physical well-being, and mental health than their peers without a CASA volunteer.
CASA of Cook County serves more than 600 children, the majority of whom are black and brown from neighborhoods most impacted by the historical racial and structural inequities in our city.
Critics of the child welfare system have long contended that the system fails to take into consideration structural racism, inequity of resources, and the way in which poverty severely impacts a family’s quality of life, substantially contributing to negative health, housing, education, and family outcomes. Although families of color are no more likely to abuse or neglect children than white families, the demographic make-up of children and families in the child welfare system in Cook County tends to be disproportionately comprised of families that are poor and of color. Research suggests that families of color are more likely to be investigated for allegations of abuse and neglect. This has been exacerbated by the over-policing and high incarceration rates in communities on Chicago’s south and west sides from which children are disproportionately removed from their homes. Once in the child welfare system, children of color are more likely to be placed into foster care, end up in residential care, and languish in the foster care system much longer than white children. CASA of Cook County is a champion and advocate for restorative justice for all children and families involved in the child welfare system with particular emphasis on black and brown children and families because they comprise the overwhelming majority of those trapped in the cycle of court involvement.
If you would like to learn more about giving to CASA or involving your corporation in CASA of Cook County’s mission, please contact CASA’s Director of Development, Abby Vlahos, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advocacy for a child who has experienced abuse and neglect in Cook County costs
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