I have been volunteering at LACASA, an organization that provides services primarily to women who have suffered either abuse and/or sexual assault and children who have suffered abuse/neglect and/or sexual assault. I have been studying really hard for these classes that I have been taking to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children. The classes have been intense but the reading assignments have been even more intense. There were only ten chapters in the program to read, but then there were handouts, the laws surrounding child abuse and neglect, and court reports that we have to file and how to write them. I really think that I am going to enjoy being a CASA court officer but I also know that it is going to be a lot of responsibility and a lot of work.
I worry about how I am going to deal with the parents who have been responsible for the abuse and neglect, especially if there has been criminal sexual conduct that the parent has been responsible for. I have to be mindful of the socio-economics involved in the case. I must be culturally sensitive and try to put any biases that I may have aside. I must be aware of the religious differences that exist and how to deal with people who may have different religious views than my own. And I have to check my political beliefs at the door. Most of those things I learned in Nursing school. But that has been a lifetime ago. or at least in my case in another life.
Children should be happy and free. Free to grow and learn. To play and to experience all of the joys of childhood. To be loved and nurtured by people who are supposed to care for them and consider them precious gifts. Gifts from the Creator. Children should be allowed to play in the sand, the snow, the water. To make sandcastles. snowmen and to splash in a pool or lake. They should be able to go to school to learn and to socialize with other children their age. They should not be full of fear, or self-loathing, or embarrassment because they are being abused or neglected at home.
Children should not be subject to abuse and neglect. But unfortunately, abuse happens. It occurs across socio-economic, cultural, religious and political groups. I have to really look at the family dynamics to find the root of the problem. Is there mental illness in the family? Is there alcohol or drug abuse going on? Is it just one child, or are all of the children being abused or neglected? The family dynamics and how the parents deal with the allegations and whether or not they are willing to get the help that they need.
Whether it is parenting classes, psychological counseling, rehab for drug or alcohol abuse, or anger management classes. Those are all of the requisites for parents to be reunified with their children. There is a time frame in which they have to meet or exceed these goals. If they don’t meet those goals within a specific amount of time the court can terminate their rights as parents and place the children up for adoption.
In the meantime, the children are placed in foster care. They can languish there for years while the court case goes on. And when it comes to whether or not a child is adoptable or not depends on the child’s disposition, their age, and any behavioral, mental, or physical problems the child might have. Children over the age of 10 are generally not considered adoptable because their behavior and disposition have been developed and it is difficult to change that. Teenagers are really not adoptable. People want the babies or the little ones who have not been too damaged by the environments that they have been raised in.
It is really a sad state of affairs. The courts are trying to speed up the process and find a permanent home for the children to live in, whether the custodial parent or an extended family member or adoption. They do not want to allow the child to remain in foster care for ages. Parents must work to get their children back and if they are not up to the task then the children suffer even more.
I want to be a useful member of society again, to give back to my community. I hate to say it, but it reminds me of when I did a clinical with children who had cancer. Abuse and neglect are like cancer, one that we need to cut out. There is going to be a lot of tears, emotions, and I imagine a lot of sadness. I just hope that I can handle the appointment set before me.