From: Rick Scalf
Community outreach coordinator for Advocates for Children
I was pleased to attend the “Moving the Needle” event at The Commons on April 19 and witness 650 members of our community turn out, desiring to make a difference on addiction issues facing our community. However, since the event, I have had conversations with several individuals who remain uncertain about how they can help, right now, in a meaningful way.
If someone is searching for a way to make a direct and positive impact on the lives currently affected by this epidemic, I have a suggestion. Consider becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer.
As The Republic recently reported, the surge in untreated addictions in Bartholomew County has left in its wake a number of shattered families and far too many children without safe and stable environments in which to thrive. In fact, from 2012 to 2015, the number of confirmed cases of child neglect in our county rose from 98 to a staggering 247 per year.
Research tells us that the best way to address the disease of addiction is to prevent it from taking hold in the first place, and as a CASA volunteer a person can do just that.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, children with a family history of alcoholism or addiction are significantly more likely to develop a substance abuse problem of their own. This cycle of addiction creates a chain reaction, often resulting in educational problems, involvement in the justice system, teen pregnancy and mental and emotional turmoil for the children involved.
As a CASA volunteer, a person can break the chain and put an end to the cycle of addiction and violence. In fact, children with a CASA volunteer are 30 percent less likely to engage in substance abuse themselves and are a remarkable 96 percent less likely to be arrested for a violent crime.
The Child Welfare League of America has noted that children whose substance-abusing parents do not receive appropriate treatment are more likely to remain in foster care longer and to re-enter foster care once they have returned home. However, for a child with a CASA volunteer, the opposite is true. Children with CASA volunteers tend to receive more services during their time in the child protection system, tend to be placed in a permanent family setting more quickly and are half as likely to return to the child protection system once they have left it.
That’s a significant impact, all for the commitment of 10 hours a month as a CASA volunteer.
Right now, Advocates for Children is seeking to match more than 300 local victims of child abuse and neglect with volunteers. Training sessions are held throughout the year.
Anyone interested in joining us as a CASA volunteer should sign up online at apowerfulvoice.org, or call us at 812-372-2808. As a CASA volunteer, one can make a difference that will last for generations.