CASA: protecting a child's right to be safe

CASA is central to fulfilling society's most fundamental obligation by making sure a qualified, compassionate adult will fight for and protect a child's right to be safe


One million American children are confirmed victims of abuse and neglect each year and over half a million of them are in foster care. Here in New Hampshire, hundreds of children come to the attention of our courts through investigation by the Division of Children, Youth & Families and law enforcement every year. These children need someone to advocate for them and to speak on their behalf in what can be a complex, confusing, and oftentimes-overburdened system. That's where Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire comes in.

As president of Citizens Bank in New Hampshire, I have been fortunate to develop a strong relationship with this organization. Marty Sink founded CASA and has built a dedicated and passionate team of staff and dedicated volunteers to make sure these children know there are caring adults in the world who value them. Because of CASA's success in guiding abused and neglected children through the child protection and juvenile justice systems to safe and permanent homes, Citizens Bank and WMUR-TV recognized CASA as the first Champion in Action of 2012.

As part of the Champions program, we have established a President-to-President mentorship, which has given me greater insights into CASA's work and its impact on New Hampshire children.

Since 1989, CASA of NH has mobilized more than 1,700 volunteers to stand beside 7,400 child victims during the entire court process. CASA was founded on the belief that there are capable and caring citizens from every walk of life who genuinely want to help children. CASA volunteers are powerful, effective, caring advocates for abused children. I can honestly say that I have never met such a truly committed group of people. They devote their time and energy. They are passionate about helping children. They are determined to work within the system to ensure successful and healthy placements for the children.

CASA offers a solution that works.

The CASA program saves millions of dollars in federal and state government expenses. It is a research-based, effective program of trained, competent, court-appointed community volunteers stepping forward to deliver great efficiency in government systems, and significantly improving outcomes for the abused and neglected children that it serves.

Based on national research, children with CASA volunteers spend less time in foster care, experience fewer out-of-home placements and enjoy significantly improved educational performance. CASA volunteers handle just one or two cases at a time, so that they can give each child's case the sustained, personal attention he or she deserves. CASA volunteers assure that the court and child welfare systems remain focused on the specific needs of individual children, assuring that children's well-being, including their need for safety and permanency, are addressed expeditiously.

These children are our children. They are innocent victims thrust into the New Hampshire court system because they suffered injury at the hands of their parents and primary caretakers — the very people who are supposed to protect and nurture them.

CASA is central to fulfilling society's most fundamental obligation by making sure a qualified, compassionate adult will fight for and protect a child's right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect, and to learn and grow in the security of a loving family.

This experience has forever changed how I think and how I feel about this organization. It raised my awareness of not only the organization but also the issues around child abuse and neglect in our state. It has encouraged me to advocate for the organization and ultimately for the children of New Hampshire. Please consider what you can do to make a difference in a child's life. 

Categories: Opinion