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Yolo CASA: The only way out is one child at a time

Two weeks ago today, many Americans learned that Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashed on the way to his 13-year-old daughter’s basketball game, killing the pilot and all nine passengers on board. In addition to the deaths of Bryant and his young daughter, Gigi, we also learned in the subsequent coverage that four other families’ lives changed in an instant that day.

Specifically, Christina Mauser, Gigi’s team’s coach, also died that day, leaving behind her husband and three daughters ranging in age from 3 to 11 years old. Another mother, Sarah Chester, died alongside her 13-year-old daughter, Payton Chester, that morning, also leaving behind her husband and two other children.

And finally, John and Kerri Antobelli died alongside their 13-year-old daughter, Alyssa Antobelli. They left behind two other children who likely never could have imagined they would be left without parents that Sunday morning.

While the whole incident leaves me incredibly unsettled, that last story really gets me. Can you imagine learning that you’ve lost both parents in an instant? I truly can’t, and the same unsettling feeling comes up when I hear these kinds of stories at Yolo County CASA.

365体育滚球According to childwelfare.gov, at any given time (taking into account entries and exits), there are nearly 443,000 children in foster care nationwide. Each of these children has a story — ranging from neglect, to severe abuse, to traumatic events like parental illness and death.

As I sat with my emotions over Bryant’s helicopter crash, I did some math. When I divided 443,000 by 365 days, I realized that if even one of these stories were told each day, it would take 1,214 years to tell them all. Imagine that … all of the shock, hurt, and fear that those four families felt on the day the helicopter crashed, being felt by a child somewhere in the United States each day for 1,214 years. That’s devastating … and it’s our reality.

365体育滚球While we can’t change the devastation, we can change the outcome.

At Yolo County CASA, we are on the front lines of helping children in foster care through our CASA volunteers. While this means we inevitably hear a lot of bad news, we also her a lot of good news. And most of this good news comes from providing key relationships when a child needs them the most.

Imagine how it feels to be removed from the only parental figure or figures you’ve ever known. Even in the worst of situations, this is traumatic and grief inducing to most children. And amidst all of these feelings, these children are also experiencing more traumatic events — moving, new schools, a new family structure, an entirely new day-to-day existence.

It’s our goal at Yolo County CASA to pair these children with a CASA volunteer as soon as possible — one person of their very own to check in with them, one person of their very own for them to confide in, one person of their very own to make sure their needs are met. In the midst of everything a child entering the dependency system is losing, at least that volunteer is one thing they can gain.

365体育滚球And through just that one relationship, research shows the child gains a whole lot more — a higher likelihood to graduate high school and attend college, a higher likelihood of reunification or adoption, and a higher likelihood of living a life free of chronic mental and physical illness. That’s how powerful an advocate can be not only in the moment, but to someone’s outcomes for the rest of his or her life.

This Friday is Valentine’s Day. As a social worker, I’ve always viewed Valentine’s Day as a holiday more about love than couples. In my career, I’ve seen a lot of love come into the life of another when it’s needed most. You see, in crisis, there is always a key time that we admit our need for help.

Whether it’s an addict who sees his mortality flash before his eyes, or a foster child who lets her guard down and confides that she is scared or depressed to a trusted other—we all need at least one key relationship in the moment when we are ready to admit that we are crashing, to begin the journey of coming out on the other side of a crisis.

365体育滚球Now and in the coming weeks, all of the families of those on board the helicopter are undoubtedly leaning on the closest relationships they have. My biggest hope is that no one affected is alone… because that is the one ingredient that when missing, can lead to devastating outcomes.

On Jan. 28, we started our winter training here at Yolo County CASA. Twenty people made a commitment to not let a child be alone. And for that, this will be a very happy Valentine’s Day for me. After all, the only way out of 443,000 stories of sorrow (431 of which are from Yolo County), is one child at a time. To learn more about Yolo County CASA, please visit yolocasa.org.

— Tracy Fauver, LCSW, is the Executive Director of Yolo County CASA.

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