Need is greater than ever for special advocates for foster children during pandemic

Students are home from school indefinitely but home isn't always the safest place for some of our children.

"You actually make a difference- you see it - you feel it - you know it," said Brenda Baker-Mbacke.

Baker-Mbacke is the director of the CASA program - at Carehouse of Oakland County. CASAs are the court appointed special advocates - the eyes and ears of and for children who are victims of abuse and neglect.

There are concerns child abuse could be on the rise with kids at home instead of school, but we might not know about it.
Brenda says referrals regarding suspected abuse often come from teachers. Right now those referrals are down 50 percent across the state.

"We can use people in the community who can volunteer to assist with children who are part of the child welfare system," she said.

Not only do we all need to report suspected child abuse, we need CASAs to assist the victims. The 56 volunteer CASAs in Oakland County normally meet around once a week - face to face with their assigned children in foster care, victims of abuse and neglect - so they can advocate for their best interests in court.

Now with the pandemic, they are meeting via video conferencing, Zoom, FaceTime, sending letters and cards - and reaching out to the foster families and birth families as well.

"We've had to change a great deal because a lot of what we do, has to do with meeting face to face with our children and families," Brenda said.

She says the volunteers go through special training to become CASAs and their services are invaluable to the safety and well-being of our most vulnerable children - but there just aren't enough CASAs for all of the kids who need them.

"No we do not have enough - we will never have enough," she said. "The goal would be to identify a CASA to be on every case that's in Oakland County and that's generally over 700 plus cases."

Which is why - they're constantly recruiting caring adults in our communities to become CASAs and maybe now - more than ever - their children need love and structure and discipline - and need to know their CASAs are still here advocating for them.

"The advocate is still out there - still rooting for them, and as soon as this changes - they will be there for them again face to face," Brenda said.

>>If you'd like more information on becoming a court appointed special advocate - check it out here: