April 9, 2020
Join National CASA/GAL in Keeping a Watchful Eye on our Children
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. It’s an opportunity to raise public awareness of child neglect and abuse while rededicating our efforts, actions and resources—all aimed at protecting our children, strengthening families and engaging the community through involvement.
Today, because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), millions of children across the country are dealing with physical distancing and social isolation, which can be very dangerous and deeply harmful, especially children under state supervision because of reported abuse or neglect.
In this season of social distancing, we should follow the CDC guidelines and be physically distant but remain socially close—especially to children who have experienced abuse or neglect. We must be hyper-vigilant about keeping children safe during this difficult, unprecedented season of isolation.
According to the Children’s Bureau of HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF), in 2018, of the more than 3.5 million children who were the subject of an investigation, 678,000 children were determined to be victims of maltreatment. In total, 60.8 percent of victims were neglected, 10.7 percent were physically abused and 7 percent were sexually abused. More than 15 percent were victims of two or more maltreatment types. Additionally, children who experience maltreatment often are affected by other adverse experiences such as parental substance abuse, domestic violence and poverty.
Child abuse and neglect have been linked to a higher risk of health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic illnesses and, can impact cognitive skills, cause attachment and social difficulties, posttraumatic stress and behavioral issues, even after the maltreatment ends. It’s possible to reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect through prevention approaches such as counseling, concrete support in times of need, social connections and tools to stop maltreatment before it starts.
Court Appointed Special Advocates and Guardian ad litem (CASA/GAL) volunteers play a key role in keeping a watchful eye over children for whom they are providing best interest advocacy. Here are just a few ways CASA/GAL volunteers are staying connected to the children they serve:
- If technology is available, using virtual options such as FaceTime, Zoom, WebEx and others to visit with children, while following all confidentiality guidelines
- Many CASA/GAL volunteers are emailing, texting and sending handwritten letters
- Some CASA/GAL volunteers are leaving care packages on the porch of the children they serve such as food, puzzles, games, books and art supplies
- A CASA/GAL volunteer FaceTimed herself reading a story to her two assigned children and sent it to them
- A CASA/GAL volunteer gave her children a tour of her farm over FaceTime
- A CASA/GAL volunteer listened to music with her teen on Spotify
Will you join me in keeping a watchful eye on our children? This ask is not just for moms and dads, teachers, social workers, and those who work on behalf of children; rather, it is the sounding of an alarm to the mail carrier, the delivery person, the grocery store clerk, the drug store cashier, grandma, the virtual teacher, the CASA/GAL volunteer and the next door neighbor—reporting abuse and neglect is everyone’s responsibility.
For all of us, everyday life has been turned upside down. However, for a child who has experienced the trauma of abuse or neglect, it is yet another season of turmoil—because of isolation, lack of social connections and potentially poor mental and emotional health. For health and safety reasons, the courts are largely closed, along with day care centers, after school programs and educational activities.
I am deeply grateful for the 93,300 CASA/GAL volunteers, social workers, judges, teachers, principals, day care workers, and countless organizations that work hard every day to support children and families affected by abuse and neglect. Many of you are also calling, texting, teaching, tutoring, delivering packages and staying in touch with children. You are our unsung heroes. Thanks to you, many of our children are happy, healthy, thriving—and safe.
As we walk this uncertain pathway together, please take the time to show compassion, care and concern for the most vulnerable among us—by being watchful, vigilant and ever mindful of the tremendous need to protect our precious children and keep them safe—now and beyond COVID-19. Let’s work together to prevent child abuse and neglect every day!
To be a CASA or GAL volunteer, go to https://nationalcasagal.org/. If you suspect abuse or neglect, call the ChildHelp National Abuse hotline: 1-800-422-4453. #EyesOnKids #COVID-19.
With Thanks and Gratitude,
CEO, National CASA/GAL Association for Children