Fairfax CASA is assigned to every child abuse and neglect case before the Fairfax Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Last fiscal year (7/1/21-6/30/22), the Court appointed CASAs to 92 new children. We served 267 children during the year, the lowest number of cases we’ve had in many, many years. These low numbers were not exclusive to Fairfax: Across Virginia, the number of cases brought before the courts declined significantly. These lower caseloads and court involved cases could be attributed to a multitude of factors, including the ongoing pandemic, the great resignation of workers in the child welfare system, and the implementation of the Families First Act, which aims to keep children safely with their families and out of foster care.
As FY23 began, Fairfax CASA started to see a surge in new cases. Normally, our office experiences a rise in cases around October 1 (schools are the primary reporter of suspected child abuse, and it can take more than 30 days for investigations to be completed). In July, the court sent us 13 new children. In August, we received ten. In September, we received 32 new children. That made 55 new children by September 30, and we were only three months into the fiscal year. As of November 18th, our office has received 108 new children, and we have served 261 children to date. We have seven months left in the fiscal year, and if this trend continues, we are on track to serve at least 40% more children this year.
How will we do this? We are incredibly fortunate to have amazing volunteers who are willing to take more than one case at a time (some take three!). We are also continuously recruiting and training new volunteers, to add to our volunteer pool.
We are tasked with serving every child referred by the Court and we are committed to doing so. But we cannot fulfill our mandate without help from the community. Please consider becoming a CASA volunteer. Do you know an adult who would make a great CASA? Send them our way. We teach our CASAs everything they need to know and we provide them with a dedicated supervisor who supports them throughout their case.
We do not expect these numbers to suddenly drop or decline: The pandemic has created a multitude of issues and complex problems for families. We are experiencing a significant increase in domestic violence incidents within our cases, and many of our children are coming from families where mental health issues and substance abuse are present. Fentanyl is a recurring theme in many of our cases, as is alcohol abuse. People are hurting, and hurt people hurt people. Our systems are overwhelmed and now, more than ever, our children need a dedicated adult who ensures that they do not slip through the cracks of the system.
If you don’t have the time to be a volunteer, you can still be a part of CASA. We are 100% funded through donations, grants, corporate sponsorships and event fundraising. Your financial contribution ensures that we can continue to provide our children with a dedicated adult, who is vetted, trained and supervised. Every donation helps, no matter how big or small.
As we enter the giving season, we thank you for considering Fairfax CASA, and for those who continue to partner with us, thank you for your ongoing support! We could not do this important work without you.