Lane County has the highest rate of children in foster care in Oregon: last year, over 1,600 children spent at least one night in foster care. All of these children have suffered from neglect or abuse at the hands of their parents.
Every day, judges decide the futures of abused and neglected children in a system that is too overburdened to focus adequately on the needs for each child.
Without the powerful voice of an advocate, children too often return to unsafe homes or languish in long-term foster care, risking future abuse or neglect. When children grow up without a safe, loving home there are dire long-term consequences:
- Children may not be able to learn at the same rate as their peers and they may struggle with emotional difficulties
- Children can suffer from long-term health problems, and even death
- Children who are shuffled between foster homes are more likely to fail classes and fall behind in their learning and socialization
- Few foster children receive normal physical examinations, and they are the most vulnerable to experiencing poor health compared with any other group of children in the United States
- For foster children who never find a permanent home and simply age out of the foster care system, the consequences are significant and long-term: only 50% will complete high school, 25% will be homeless, 40% will depend on some form of public assistance, and 27% of males and 10% of females will be incarcerated at least once.
For the past two decades, CASA of Lane County has struggled with a difficult choice: which vulnerable children will receive the powerful voice of a CASA volunteer and which children will not? Resources currently allow CASA to serve 427 children a year, about one-fourth of the need in our county.
The choice is heart-wrenching and the outcomes for children’s futures are critical. The community, justice system and child welfare system depend upon CASA’s advocacy for abused and neglected children. The Lane County Juvenile Judge encourages CASA volunteers to speak in her courtroom, and reports the need for more CASA volunteers to provide information and help guide her decisions on difficult cases.