Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, children and families have been isolated and under more financial and emotional stress, which historically can fuel a rise in cases of child abuse and neglect. During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, CASA of Cherokee Country reminds everyone to keep eyes on children during these challenging times.

During the past 12 months, more than 300 children in CASA of Cherokee Country’s service area have experienced abuse or neglect, ushering many of them into the dependency court and Foster Care systems. A child in Foster Care may have faced physical, psychological and/or emotional trauma only to endure long periods of uncertainty in the system as he or she wait to go home, be adopted or simply wait to see what happens next.

On average, a child in Foster Care will move into multiple homes and attend multiple schools. All this chaos and inconsistency has long-term effects. Children and youth who have spent time in the system are more likely to face incarceration, homelessness and unemployment. They are less likely to graduate high school and more likely to be trafficked.

But having a caring, consistent adult - someone who listens, checks in and puts the child’s best interests before all others’ -  can make all the difference.

Throughout the pandemic, CASA of Cherokee Country volunteers have remained committed to providing best-interest advocacy for children who have experienced abuse or neglect in Adair County District Court, Cherokee County District Court, and Cherokee Nation Tribal Court.  However, more volunteer advocates are needed to provide attention and support to young victims during these difficult times.

Individuals age 21 or older can make a positive difference in a child’s life by becoming a CASA volunteer child advocate.  The next CASA training course begins May 10, 2021.  Applications are available on the CASA web site, cherokeecasa.org, or at the CASA office, 201 E. Delaware St., in Tahlequah.  For more information, phone the CASA office, 918-456-8788, Mon. – Fri., 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.