COLUMBIA — Imagine you’re 6 years old. Plucked from home for your own safety by badge-wielding strangers, separated from siblings, fate unknown — and it’s Christmas.
Nearly 10,000 Missouri children will spend Christmas in foster care. It’s heartbreaking. We should all do what we can, particularly this time of year, for families less fortunate than our own. It’s a great feeling and a valuable lesson for our kids to dispatch Santa to another child’s home, but let’s do one better. Let’s send a guardian angel to every child in foster care.
Court Appointed Special Advocates is already working on it. CASA trains volunteers to advocate in juvenile court for children who are removed from abusive homes and placed in state custody. In this scary limbo, CASA’s dedicated lay volunteers watch over and stand up for their “CASA kids” to see they receive appropriate services, spend as little time as possible in the system and ultimately land in safe and secure homes — and it works. National studies confirm CASA kids get more services, spend less time in foster care and are far less likely to re-enter the system than children without CASAs.
Currently there are about 1,200 CASA volunteers serving roughly 2,200 children in Missouri. The other 7,800 foster children in Missouri do not have a CASA. The mission of the Missouri CASA Association is to expand CASA services through the state by supporting 22 existing local programs and creating new programs in unserved areas. No single one of us can eradicate child abuse or play Santa to the countless forgotten children in our community. But by supporting CASA now and into 2011, together, we can ensure that every Missouri child will spend next Christmas in a safe, permanent and loving home. That’s a New Year’s resolution worth keeping.
For information about supporting CASA or becoming a volunteer, go to www.mocasa.net or call 256-1445.
Megan Phillips is the board president for Missouri CASA Association.