By the time you finish reading this, more than 30 cases of child abuse will be reported to authorities nationwide. By the end of today, that number will swell past 9,000. Four of those children will die at the hands of their abuser. All in a single day.
When we take stock of these sobering statistics it is easy to be overwhelmed and to ask, “What can I possibly do to make a difference?”
The answer is that everybody can play a role in preventing child abuse and neglect by becoming advocates for children. Donate money, offer pro-bono support, become a mentor, or advocate with organizations that help children and families, like Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children.
CASA advocates stand up for abused and neglected children who are now living in foster care. CASA volunteers are people just like you – teachers, businesspeople, retirees, grandparents who are simply willing to help a child in need. These advocates give children a voice in an overburdened child welfare system and can help break the cycle of abuse and neglect by helping children find safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.
Children with a CASA are half as likely to re-enter the foster care system, and have improved educational achievement - making a profound difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of abused and neglected children across the country and nearly 700 children right here in Atlantic and Cape May Counties. Nevertheless, the increased number of children in care and the great need for advocates leaves many children without an advocate to fight for their rights.
While not everyone can be a CASA volunteer, everyone can be a child advocate.
Here are some steps you can take to make our community safer for our children: Keep the child abuse hotline number nearby, 1-800 NJ Abuse. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you can report your suspicions confidentially; Donate or volunteer for a social service agency that helps children who have been abused or neglected, and; educate yourself – and others – about the devastating toll that abuse and neglect take on children and our society as a whole.
If abused and neglected children do not get the proper support, they are more likely to drop out of school, end up homeless, and become involved in crime and drugs. Advocacy efforts will not only help end child abuse, it will improve our community where we live, work and play.
When we work together to protect vulnerable children, it literally saves lives. We all have a role to play. What will yours be?