A friend posted this article on Facebook, and it got me thinking more about what we can do about this stuff. Have you guys ever wondered?
One of the things you can do is look into your county's ad litem program. CASA is the national branch, but states have different bodies that govern the program. But every state has a guardian ad litem program.
What does a GAL do? Well, it depends on the state and on the laws, but for the most part, you go to bat for a kid who needs someone to support their interests and theirs only. When a child is removed from their parent's care, their whole world is disrupted. They get assigned a court appointed attorney, and sometimes a non-attorney advocate. But beyond that, nothing. But with a GAL volunteer, there is someone they can call. You can walk a kid through the process. You can hold his/her hand. And you can stay in touch and mentor long after... if say, that kid ends up in the system, or even back with their parents. You can provide some stability.
Sounds scary, right? CASA is an amazing organization, and they provide really, really good training. The requirement for my county is 30 hours for non-attorneys (8 hours for attorneys; longer if you want to be an attorney ad litem, which is something totally different). They provide support groups, and you have to check in monthly. It is totally scary because you have a kid's life "in your hands" but the support is there!
The monetary commitment is fairly low, depending on where you live. Gas costs are probably the biggest barrier for entry.
Also it is possible in our county to do GAL as a team. It is a big time ccommitment, but sometimes a couple or a pair of friends will do it together (both have to be trained, obviously) and will tag team a small family of kids. It allows you to have a buddy in the process, and lessens the burden on each individual.
I'll leave you with a quote from the woman who shared the article, who is, by all accounts, an absolutely amazing person:
One in four children who age out of foster care without a forever family will experience PTSD at twice the rate of US war veterans. This is not simply a resources issue. It is a human rights issue tied intimately to the human psyche. Florida has come far to pass into law our Extended Foster Care program. But let us not forget that it takes more than dollars and program infrastructure to truly heal our foster youth. It requires the engagement of the human spirit!
Consider getting involved with your local ad litem program. Start with CASA, and see where it takes you. Your time and energy will make a difference.