Everyone wants the work they do to result in a better future. Businesses want to increase profits. Researchers want to discover technological breakthroughs. Nonprofits want to solve problems. Your better future may look very different from mine, but we both see the potential for improvement over where we are now. It’s not hard to imagine a better future. The real puzzle is figuring out how to get there.
About CASA and Who We Serve
CASA of Lexington, a nonprofit that advocates for abused and neglected children, has a particularly amazing vision for the future: A world where every child gets to grow up in a safe, permanent, loving home. It’s a simple dream, but we are unfortunately a long way from realizing it. In the past two years alone, more than 2,500 children in CASA of Lexington’s four-county service area have suffered abuse or neglect. Those children have likely suffered trauma due to how their caretakers have treated them. Many also suffered trauma when they were removed from their homes. Now, many live in foster care, residential treatment, or with relatives. They may not be sure if anyone really loves them or cares about them. Their worlds are filled with uncertainty, worry, fear, and constantly changing faces. Without someone looking out for their best interests, they may also be missing out on therapy to address their trauma or falling behind in school.
The Hard Reality
Kentucky has been the worst state in the nation for child abuse and neglect for three years in a row. It will be difficult to get from where we are to where we want to be. For every 1,000 children, there were more than 20 cases of abuse or neglect in 2020. The national average was just under 9 cases per 1,000 children. That means children are more than twice as likely to be abused or neglected in Kentucky than they are in the nation as a whole. It’s a hard reality to face. And there is no easy solution. But CASA of Lexington does have a small piece of the puzzle figured out.
Volunteers Making Connections
Our volunteers are doing their part to change things for the better, one case at a time. Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers are trained community members who are assigned by a judge to children who have been abused or neglected. CASA volunteers visit the children regularly, becoming a consistent presence in their sometimes wildly inconsistent lives. They get to know the children on their case personally and invest time in them like no one else can. They interview adults involved in the children’s lives and have a court order giving them access to all of the children’s records, including medical and school records. Before every hearing in a child’s case, the CASA volunteer writes a report for the judge that summarizes what’s going on in the child’s life, what services they need, and what actions could speed up permanency. Those reports better inform the judge’s decisions, changing the trajectory of the child’s future.
One of our CASA volunteers discovered a little girl was in need of glasses when no one else had been able to spend the time to figure that out. The girl was headed into remedial reading classes, but soon after receiving glasses as the CASA volunteer recommended, she was moved into the advanced reading group. Another pair of CASA volunteers — a couple who work cases together — helped the parents of the children on their case find real help for their substance misuse problems. They also connected them with a church community and helped them reach a place where they could be reunited with their children. CASA of Lexington volunteers work hundreds of cases like these each year. In 2020, our CASA volunteers advocated for 583 children. It’s a small fraction of the total children in need, but each child we help is a step on the path to our better future.
The children we help are more likely to succeed in school and far less likely to re-enter the foster care system after finding a permanent home. They are less likely to be moved around during their cases and their cases close five and a half months sooner on average. Children today become adults tomorrow. The quality of their childhood determines a lot about the quality of their adulthood. By meeting some of our neediest children where they are and helping improve their lives, CASA volunteers are making better futures possible for all kinds of future adults. Their impact can last for generations.
You can be a part of our better future. You can support CASA of Lexington financially by donating online at www.casaoflexington.org or calling (859) 246-4313. You can learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer at www.casaoflexington.org/learn or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can help raise awareness by telling other people about CASA’s vision for a better future.
Community Engagement Coordinator
CASA of Lexington