Letter to the Editor: Help children in foster care and their families

To the Editor:

The holiday season has begun. It looks and feels different to us all in one way or another. The year 2020 has been more than challenging, with its unrest, instability, fears and losses in varying degrees. This year has mandated that we change many things about the way we live, interact with others, and view our future.

One positive note is that it has shown the compassion of people stepping up and stepping in to help. It has been the cause of prayers and pleas for healing and peace.

While holidays typically bring people closer together, this can be a difficult time for children involved in the child welfare system who are not able to spend this time with their biological families. They do not have the opportunity to be a part of creating precious memories that many of us hold dear.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers can step in, helping make sure children stay meaningfully connected with their siblings, families and communities. They stand by the child’s side while in foster care, providing a consistent presence and ensuring he or she is kept safe and their needs are met. The children need someone who can get to know them and their unique situation, advocate for them, and help ensure they are surrounded by caring people who will support them even after their case ends.

Appointed by a judge, CASA volunteers’ first priority on cases is to advocate for keeping families together whenever safe and possible. When that is not possible, CASA volunteers recommend that children live with another relative or close family friend to ensure that they can maintain connections to their family and community. CASA volunteers get to know the child or sibling group on an individual level and speak with other important people in the child’s life, such as their parents and family, teachers, therapists, foster parents and more.

With the information they gather, they develop a holistic understanding of their circumstances and needs, and make recommendations to the court. The CASA’s goal is always a safe and permanent home where each child can thrive.

In 2019, there were over 11,000 abused and neglected Iowa children. Our local CASA Programs across the state are challenging more members of each community to become a part of the solution by becoming a CASA volunteer.

This holiday season, the Northeast Iowa CASA Program urges you to be mindful of the children who are spending the holidays away from those they love. Consider how you can help make a difference for them in 2021 by becoming a CASA volunteer. Please visit casaiowa.org or email kerry.brennan@dia.iowa.gov.

Kerry Brennan
CASA Program
Coordinator & CAMS Specialist