Advocating for Children in TN Courts

Though I've never been particularly moved by statistics, a recent study showed that there are over 400,000 children in the US foster care system on any given day.  The study opened my eyes to a reality that had previously been unseen.  These 400,000 children go virtually undetected by the majority of society.  Yet each one of these children go on day by day living in limbo from home to home and courtroom to courtroom. On average a foster child will live around 26 months with parents they’ve just met. These two years in the life of a child significantly alters the course of their life. Perhaps the saddest reality is that they have done nothing to deserve this. They are the innocent victims of abuse and neglect and the results of their time in foster care can unfortunately be just as devastating.

Over the past few years several participants here at Global Outreach Developments Intl. have observed the need for childhood advocacy particularly within the realm of foster care. For these children, the court room is a scary place. It's where they are often told who they are going to live with, where they will be going to school and what their limitations are while in state custody. It's also a place where they have to relive details of their lives that are devastating. Children should never have to go through this process alone.

Therefore several G.O.D. Intl. Community participants have trained to become Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) for children in Tennessee. In doing so, we have undergone training by the state that authorizes each one to represent the child in court, speaking for their best interest. We are working with caseworkers, attorneys, foster families, educators, counselors and family members in order to present to the court what we believe to be the best possible option for each child we represent. With the help of God we believe we can make a significant impact in the lives of these youth by helping them navigate through a world of mistrust, grown up decision-making, and courtroom lingo.

CASA is a nationwide organization that trains volunteers to advocate for children who are in state custody because of abuse or neglect by a caretaker. While training to become a CASA representative I was very encouraged by the array of people in my classes.  There were retired educators, nurses, law students, empty-nest couples and young adults who aged out of foster care, all wanting to walk alongside of these children during very vulnerable times.  So many different people across the US are making a difference by advocating for those in the foster care system. For us, 400,000 is not a defeating statistic, rather it motivates the level of care and concern we can give to each child we represent. 

Written by Britt Edwards