Posted: July 17, 2007 in Justice

The statistics are mind-boggling:
* More than 870,000 documented cases of child abuse in our country every year – how many go un-documented?
* Over 1,250 children die each year directly from child abuse or neglect – the majority are under 5 years old
* 9 out of 10 abusers are a child’s parents/guardians
* 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by age 18
* Between 80% and 90% of prisoners were victims of child abuse

Mind-boggling.

And what do we do about this? Shaking our head in sadness doesn’t seem sufficient. After last night, I have a suggestion:

Become a CASA volunteer.

CASA stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocate.” A CASA volunteer speaks up for the best interests of a child by making sure that the court, social services, and legal counsel do their jobs for that child. One of my all-time favorite passages is Proverbs 31: 8-9 which urges speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Where is that more appropriate than when speaking up for an abused or neglected child?

You have to be 21 years old to volunteer. You have to fill out a bunch of paperwork. You have to do 30 hours of training. It doesn’t seem too much to do for a child in such desperate need.

I went with my friend, Dana, to our first training session last night. We were 2 of 13 volunteers there. 4 were veteran CASA volunteers, and 9 were brand new. We ranged from a great-grandmother to a young man who is hoping to go to law school. There were 3 pastors in the group. There was 1 lady whose husband was killed six years ago, which ended their desire to be foster parents – so she decided to be a CASA volunteer instead. We are a diverse group, and that is beautiful. Our only problem is that we are too small.

Our director had a death in the family, so the Youth Court Judge, Sharon Sigalas, conducted the session. She told us that her little courtroom handled 1600 cases of abuse and neglect every year. I was blown away. 1600 cases, just in our county!

My wife and I spent three years of our marriage as houseparents at a residential group childcare facility, so I am no longer shocked by what happens to children. I continue to be shocked, however, by the sheer numbers. Combine that with the proven concept that abused and neglected children need adults who care about them personally, and I’m humbled to think how many volunteers are needed to make a difference for children in need.

So I’m spreading the word today. Check out CASA HERE. Find out where you can get involved in your community. Change the world.

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