Record numbers of children have entered the child protection system over the last three years, according to the Indiana Department of Child Services. This has created a strong demand for qualified advocates to stand by these children's side during one of the most challenging times of their lives. Advocates for Children has responded to this need and reached a record number of children in 2016.
In 2015, Advocates for Children served 670 children who had been removed from their homes after becoming the victims of abuse or neglect. Newly released 3rd quarter statistics for 2016 show that by October of this year, we had already served 737 such children. That's 67 more children served in this first three quarters of 2016 than in ALL of 2015!
With the generous support of our contributors, and special grants from organizations such as the Heritage Fund, the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, the Decatur County Community Foundation, and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, Advocates for Children has responded to the flood of new cases with redoubled efforts to recruit Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers, and has added several staff Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) advocates to serve children who are at risk of going without a CASA. Those efforts are having an impact.
"We came into 2016 knowing that we were facing a challenge," said Rick Scalf, Community Outreach Coordinator. "Indiana has seen a flood of illegal drugs tearing families apart, and our children are particularly impacted. Frankly, we've never seen so many cases. We knew we had to step up, and with the help of our partners, we're working hard to make sure no child is allowed to slip through the cracks."
Having an advocate isn't just a comfort says Advocates for Children's Executive Director, Therese Miller. It produces real results.
"We know that a child with an advocate is likely to perform better in school," said Miller. "He is likely to receive more services during his time in the system, and see more progress in his or her social groups. Most importantly, we know that a child with an advocate is more likely to find her way quickly into the embrace of a safe, loving and permanent home in which to thrive. And once a child with an advocate has been placed, that child is less likely to ever re-enter the child protection system."
In spite of the increased number of children being served, however, there's still work to be done. Advocates for Children has identified an additional 343 children on the waiting list in Bartholomew, Decatur and Jennings counties. Individuals interested in serving these children as a CASA volunteer are encouraged to sign up online or contact the office at (812) 372-2808 for more information.
Those who do not have the time available to serve as a CASA volunteer can also consider making a contribution to help support our efforts to reach those children still in need.