There’s a lot going on right now in news, but we want to back up just a bit with this editorial and point out something before we get too far past the date.
Last week, seven people took the final steps to become advocates for children in the state’s court system. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) are appointed to ensure there is someone on a child’s side during court proceedings.
Courts see both the best and worst of people. It’s often the latter. For every event like National Adoption Day, there are dozens of others when the consequences of bad decisions take center stage. Some of those inevitably put children in an extremely difficult position.
There are plenty of ways a child can be brought into contact with the courts, and in most cases they’re entirely blameless. It was not usually their actions that brought the court into their lives. Adults with decent educations can be shaken by such a situation, unable to effectively speak out on their own behalf. So think about how overwhelming it must be for a child.
The advocates have to receive a considerable amount of training before being accepted into their new roles. And they do so knowing that what they see and hear may be tough to deal with. They’re volunteering to stand with children in extreme situations, to make sure at least one voice in the courtroom is speaking for the child. It’s not something to take lightly.
One of the new advocates, Ethan Lake, said he volunteered after moving to Iowa from Illinois. He put it well when he said children “need just an extra voice to advocate for them.”
The program’s website put it a little differently, saying volunteers work “to make sure that children who are already victims of abuse or neglect aren’t negatively affected by the state system intended to protect them.”
Why should the general public care? It’s true that most children will not come into contact with the courts. It’s also true that the majority will never need someone with such specialized training at their sides.
What is also true is that traumatic events in childhood stay with us for a very long time. We can all remember moments that hurt, that made us feel less valued, less wanted. Having someone step up and help in those moments does not make the pain go away, but it can reduce the lingering effects.
The work CASA volunteers do is important, both to the community today and to its future. We’re glad to see so many take the final steps to become advocates last week, and hope to see more in the future.
Good luck to the newly-certified volunteers. Thank you for being willing to take such an important step.