I am a child of the ‘70s. My mornings consisted of sugary cereal and PBS television (specifically, Channel 2, WGBH in Boston). I spent a great deal of time with Mr. Rogers and the characters on his show—Officer Clemmons, Henrietta Pussycat, King Friday and Mr. McFeely, the delivery man. Mr. Rogers taught me many things, but the lessons that remain with me to this day are the importance of radical kindness and the importance of caring for others and accepting people for who they are, exactly where they are.
Each day, I have the good fortune to work with the heroes that Mr. Rogers described: the Fairfax CASA volunteers. CASA volunteers truly embody all that Mr. Rogers sought to teach us. Last year, 300 abused and neglected children from Fairfax had a CASA by their side, share their story with the court, and ensure that their individual needs remained the focus of their cases. CASA volunteers visited with their children over 4,700 times last year, and made over 33,000 contacts with service providers, school personnel, parents and foster parents. They stayed on their cases, throughout COVID-19, and they showed up when they said they would. They are heroes.
The child welfare system is a scary and lonely place for children. No child wants to be removed from their parents, separated from their siblings, or placed with strangers. No child wants to experience change and upheaval. But the reality for children in foster care is removal, separation, strangers and change.
Fairfax CASAs have a profound impact on these children, and therefore on our community, and I am grateful that I get to be a small part of their hard work. Work that includes reporting to the Court on the status of parents who are doing everything they can to get their children back but need and deserve more time to achieve sobriety and stability. Work of advocating for special education services for children who aren’t receiving the free and appropriate education that they are entitled to under the law. Work that includes encouraging a teenager to believe in himself and apply for college. Each and every day, these heroes show up, listen to these children and fight for their needs.
Since 1989, nearly 8,000 abused and neglected Fairfax children have benefited from a CASA volunteer while navigating the foster care and court systems. More than 1,700 selfless members of our local community have made a choice to do this work. But they could not do this work without YOU. Through your gifts of generosity, time and partnerships, YOU have prioritized the children of our community. Your choice to support Fairfax CASA makes YOU a hero.
When a child is assigned to our office, they become our children, and because of your generosity, every single one of our children had a CASA volunteer last year. In 1989, we received our first case involving 2 children who were physically abused. Thirty-five volunteers served 80 children that year from 46 families. Last year, 130 active CASA volunteers served 300 children from 175 Fairfax families. The numbers have changed, but over the last 32 years, one thing has remained constant in our cases and that is the impact that a CASA makes in the lives of our children.
Fairfax CASA relies on competitive grants, fundraising events and our generous donors to cover 100% of our annual expenses. One year of advocacy for an abused and neglected child costs approximately $1,700. In Fairfax, one year in foster care, a residential placement, or a juvenile facility can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $142,000 per child. A child with a CASA advocate spends 7.5 months less time in foster care than a child without a CASA. $1,700 is an incredibly sensible investment for our community, as our team of 6 paid professional supervisors can each supervise up to 30 volunteers, who advocate for an average of 50-75 children annually.
In his book, “The World According to Mr. Rogers,” Fred Rogers wrote, “When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.”
You may not have the time to be a CASA volunteer; most people do not. But, by donating to Fairfax CASA, whether you donate $10 or $1,000, you are a hero. YOU become a part of the collective heroism ensuring that every child referred by the Court to our office receives the benefit of a CASA. Thank you, for being a hero for our children.
Wishing you and yours happy holidays and a peace-filled 2022,