It takes just the power of one to make a difference. That sounds cliché. Yet, in reality it is more than true.
This is what the work of a CASA volunteer (Court Appointed Special Advocate) does every day. CASAs advocate for children who have suffered abuse and neglect and who are now in our court system by no fault of their own. These children must try to understand fear, trauma, anger, anticipation, disappointment and the unknown — alone. And, sometimes at the tender age of 4 or 8 or 14.
People say children are resilient. That’s true. Yet, they still harbor these experiences over a lifetime. It’s imperative we, as a community and society, change that. We must ensure these children have the coping skills and resources to address these challenges and to rise above. We owe that to them and ourselves. It really does take a village, to coin another cliché.
These are the children who will grow up to work in and run businesses, become community leaders and sometimes fall to the wayside. It’s that last part that has inspired me to be a CASA to 16 children over the past 14 years.
As the 2022-2023 Colorado CASA Advocate of the Year, I’ve had the honor to advocate for children from newborn to young adult. Children who have seen and experienced violence that should never have been a part of anyone’s life, much less a child’s. Sexual abuse. Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Domestic violence. Addiction. Crime. Poverty.
CASAs help ensure a child’s safety, best interests and well-being. They are a voice for the child and the eyes and ears for the court. They interact with attorneys, caseworkers, educators and therapists to ensure resources are available so the child can thrive through their situation. We know that youth with a CASA:
• Have significantly fewer placements and are less likely to re-enter the child welfare system.
• Have higher academic performance.
• Have improved behavior and self-control.
• Have improved overall well-being.
• Are less likely to turn to delinquency and crime.
In Colorado, nearly 5,000 children were served through the 18 CASA programs by nearly 2,000 CASA advocates. Even with these numbers, there are many children navigating these situations without a CASA volunteer. There are five metro area CASA organizations that provide services in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Gilpin, Jefferson and Lincoln counties. These organizations provide a number of additional donated resources like school supplies, holiday gifts, tickets for outings, and gift cards for groceries, retail and restaurants.
It’s time to invest in our communities’ future with a collective power of one. You can be the one. You can:
• Give your time and be a voice for these children.
• Be a champion and cheerleader — we all need one at some point, especially a child.
• Build their confidence and self-worth.
• Be a role model.
You can make a difference in the future of our community by lifting these children up, guiding them on their journey and being the one stable influence in their lives at a critical time of need.
We cannot underestimate the power one person can have, especially for our most vulnerable children. That’s essential and anything but cliché.
Jane Dvorak is the 2022-2023 Colorado CASA of the Year.