MICHIGAN, USA — April is Child Abuse and Neglect Awareness Month.
Michigan has more than 10,000 children in the foster care system and statics show if those children don't find a caring adult by the time they turn 18, a quarter of them will be incarcerated within two years.
Michigan Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) is hoping to change this statistic.
Michigan CASA trains volunteers to be a caring adult that spends time with a child every week and speaks on behalf of the child’s best interest when his or her case is heard in court.
CASA'S president and CEO Patty Sabin says their organization wouldn't be possible without their volunteers advocating for children involved in the child welfare.
"They're really the heart and soul of this organization. And so we do all we can to appreciate them, not only throughout the year, but especially in the month of April, because they're the frontline people who work with our abused and neglected children here in the state of Michigan," said Sabin.
As of 2023, there are Michigan CASA programs in 29 counties throughout the state serving just over 1,300 children, leaving an estimated 8,700 children still voiceless. Sabin says the need is great.
"These children are in a system, a broken system. And I don't think anyone will disagree with that... So our role is to get in there, and to figure out what we can do to help support efforts to return a child, if at all possible. That's our core model," Sabin said. "We operate by that, that we know that statistics show and studies show that children do better in their home of origin, when that can be safely achieved a lot of times. Sometimes it can't be, unfortunately, and those are the very sad cases. But a lot of times if you know the system works with parents, it gives them the resources and the tools they need to be able to safely parent their children, then reunification will occur. And that's when everybody rejoices."
According to studies conducted by CASA, compared with foster children who don’t have support, children who have a CASA volunteer are more likely to be adopted, less likely to be bounced from home to home, half as likely to re-enter foster care, substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care, more likely to have a plan for permanency and more likely to do well in school.
Sabin says this is all thanks to their hard-working volunteers.
"They stay with the children until the case is closed, meaning the children have either been adopted or unified with their parents," Sabin said.
And the volunteers' work is not going unnoticed. This month, the organization is holding several volunteer appreciation events in each county.
"We'll be celebrating our volunteers, we'll be celebrating the children that we serve. We've gotten an amazing program set up in our Grand Rapids zone," said Sabin.
CASA will hold an annual fundraising event on April 27 at Thousand Oaks Country Club. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.
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