This week’s 52 Weeks of Mitzvot topic takes us seemingly out of the realm of Jewish tradition, thought and practice, but in reality could not be more Jewish. Numerous times in the Torah we are admonished to take care of the widow, the orphan, the stranger in our land. We are commanded to take special care of the most vulnerable in our society.
One of the most vulnerable populations in our society is those children from birth to age 18 years who for whatever reason need to be removed from their homes because of neglect or abuse. These children need someone advocating from them and helping them through the system to get them safe shelter, food, clothing, education and most of all stability. There is a wonderful organization in town called CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates. These CASA caseworkers take on the difficult task of aiding these children in navigating the system to get them the resources they need. As the title implies, they are all volunteers. CAS Advocates are the definition of Mitzvah workers.
Below is some information I took off the local CASA website which describes what they do. It also has some statistics that you will find interesting. One of our members Marla Hollander-Polott is a CASA volunteer. She will be speaking at Friday night services this week to give us some insight into what the program is all about.
What is a CASA?
CASA volunteers are men and women who are dedicated to the vital role of advocating on behalf of abused or neglected children. The children served by CASA volunteers range in age from birth to 18. Were it not for the voice of a CASA volunteer, the child’s voice might not be heard.
When the judge appoints a CASA volunteer to a child’s case, the CASA volunteer becomes responsible for developing a consistent, emotionally supportive relationship with the CASA child, gathering information from all appropriate sources, and making the most suitable recommendations to the judge about what is in the child’s best interest.
Although CASA volunteers come from a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds, all share a desire to, and a belief that one person can and does, make a difference in the life of an abused and/or neglected child. As a child’s advocate, the CASA volunteer’s goal is to help secure a safe and permanent home for their CASA child. CASA volunteers closely monitor the situation, advocate for services, and help guide their CASA child through what is a very confusing period of time in their life. The CASA volunteer is a crucial source of emotional support for the CASA child.
The tree that grows from the seeds of attention and compassion which you plant in your CASA child, produces sturdy branches bearing good, healthy fruit, the effects of which are unimaginably profound and far reaching.
One person, unquestionably, can and does make huge, positive life changing differences in the life of an abused/neglected child.
Clark County Department of Family Services Statistics 2014: By the end of 2014 there were nearly 3,000 children are in out-of-home placements because they are not safe at home. The Department of Family Services (DFS) Statistical Report of December 2014 reflects the following statistics:
In December 2014 there were 2,977 new referrals received by the Department of Family Services hotline. Of the 2,977 referrals, 1,662 child protection services investigations were conducted.
By the end of 2014, approximately 2,929 children were placed in out of home placements, to include foster homes, relative placements, treatment foster homes, residential homes and other out of home placements.
Of the 4,078 children received at the Emergency Reception Center at Child Haven, 1,961 were released within 24 hours to a parent, relative, fictive kin or placed directly into a foster home.
In 2014 children remained in Child Haven for more extended periods of time than in previous years. In December 2014, the average daily population at Child Haven was 54 children, with an average stay of 14 days.
DFS has a goal of having enough foster homes, so that children and families can be properly matched, to minimize placement moves and add stability for children.
The need for foster families who are willing and able to care for children with emotional and behavioral challenges is high.
The tree that grows from the seeds of attention and compassion which you plant in your CASA child, produces sturdy branches bearing good, healthy fruit, the effects of which are unimaginably profound and far reaching. One person, unquestionably, can and does make huge, positive life changing differences in the life of an abused/neglected child.
For more information about CASA call (702) 455-4306 or click here.