Numbers don’t tell the full story of the struggling children and families we encounter at any of our nine CAC locations or in the four counties where CASA services are provided. You can’t see the faces of children as they talk about their trauma in a number. You can’t feel the hugs or see the smiles of reunited parents and their children in a statistical report. The need for CAC and CASA services have reached an all-time high and are predicted to continue growing. Here are some statistics of those we serve at the Advocacy Network for Children.
In the 2019 fiscal year, Advocacy Network for Children conducted 457 forensic interviews across Adams, Brown, Cass, Hancock, McDonough, Morgan, Pike, Schuyler and Scott Counties. Two years ago, that number was 327. That’s a nearly 40% increase in forensic interview services alone. This number doesn’t reflect the advocacy outreach services, case coordination, case management, court attendance and victim witness services. Our Advocates make and receive calls and provide victim resources every day, attend to the court docket on an almost daily basis, attend meetings to discuss open cases and frequently assist in preparing victims for court. Advocates and interviewers also spend time traveling to these counties to provide interviews, meet with local law enforcement, DCFS investigators and representatives from area States’ Attorneys’ offices.
This past fiscal year, CASA represented 202 children in court and worked towards reunification with their families in Adams, Hancock, Morgan and Pike County. Last year, the program was expanded to include the other three counties besides Adams County. Adams County alone had a 15% increase. These numbers will also grow as the needs for these services increase in our current counties and we work towards adding CASA services in additional counties. This would not be possible without the 98 committed volunteers who gave a minimum of 10 hours per child each month to make sure they have a voice and their emotional, physical, mental, educational and social needs are being met. They continually work to help children and families improve their lives and relationships and to ensure the children are not lost in an overburdened child welfare system.
Combined, our Happy Bear and P.S. It’s My Body Prevention Programs, educated 4,334 children and 273 teachers in our nine-county region last year. This program includes a Happy Bear personal safety play, a teacher and parent component that provides safety tips, strategies for talking to children about personal safety, and what to do if a child discloses abuse. The evidence based prevention program is a key component in helping to end childhood physical and sexual abuse.
These numbers do show something essential though. It shows there are even more children and families in need of our services and Advocacy Network for Children is committed to providing those services. Our goal is, and will continue to be — to protect and uphold the rights of children when wrongs have been committed against them, to help abused or neglected children have safe permanent homes where they can thrive, to act as a powerful voice in these children’s best interests and to educate the public about the plight of abused children.