Domestic Violence Has Long Range Consequences

What happens to children exposed to domestic violence? A lot–and none of it is good.

Children not only watch the abuse. They hear the sounds of abuse, see the bruises, and of course, very often, they too are the victims. They are taught to keep the family secret. They suffer in silence and shame.

The effects follow into adulthood with long range consequences. Several studies agree that children who witness domestic violence have a variety of effects depending upon the their age, the severity of the abuse and length of time and frequency of the abuse.

 

Infants will exhibit:DVAM_Insta5
Extreme irritability
Immature behavior
Separation anxiety
Difficulty with toilet training
Sleep disorders
Problems with language development

Older children experience:
Problems with schoolwork
Attention disorders
Depression
Suicidal tendencies
Bed-wetting
Teenage pregnancy
Criminal behavior
Substance abuse

 Later in life they can expect:
To be a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence
To lose empathy for others
Social isolation
Aggressive behavior
Difficulty forming friendships
Difficulty maintaining employment

 

The list of problems goes on. Anyone can infer, that once domestic violence enters the life of a child, the cycle of abuse has been created. And in many cases, it continues into future generations.

What do children victims of domestic violence need?

To start, children need to be heard and believed. Adults that work, live and interact with children and the family members need to be aware of the signs of domestic violence and they have to be willing to break the silence and speak out.

Children also need support services to begin to heal. A holistic, individualized plan is important as each child can be affected differently from exposure to domestic violence. Additionally, studies show that interventions for abused mothers and fathers will ultimately help the children involved as well.

Children must be taught – repeatedly – that domestic violence and aggressive behaviors are wrong. They need positive relationship role models to understand how to avoid violence in their own personal relationships. And finally, and most importantly, they need what we all need – love, understanding and compassion from everyone around them.

 

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THIS is why we Advocate… #SuccessStory

Nicholas, now age 10, entered foster care after a violent incident perpetrated by his father against his mother, Anna, left her paralyzed, bed-ridden, and with limited ability to communicate. Anna was no longer able to parent her child alone. Nicholas was placed in foster care.

Julie, the Court Appointed Special Advocate assigned to Nicholas’s case, advocated for “reunification” with his mother who was now living with her parents. When Anna’s parents, who did not speak English, needed direction and guidance during the reunification process, it was Julie they looked to for help. She went with the family to court hearings. Julie also helped the grandparents communicate with the child’s school about pressing issues that Nicholas was facing so the grandparents could help him succeed academically.

With Julie’s help, the case closed after a successful family reunification. Nicholas was glad to be at home again with his mother and grandparents.

Nicholas is one of the many children served by CASA during the past year. If you would like to learn more about volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in Middlesex County please write to Silvia Cuesta at silvia@casaofmiddlesexcounty.org or call Silvia at (732) 246-4449 ext. 2.

Written by Nancy Miller

 

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Simone Biles Leading Next Generation of Women

Many Olympics viewers are very familiar with 21-year-old Simon Biles. She was the leader of the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team and has won NINETEEN Olympic and World Championship medals. She remains unforgettable and inspirational to many.

Don’t get us wrong though, Simone had a very rough start like many of us do. She and her sister, Adria were born to their mother struggling to stay afloat with drug and alcohol addictions.  They were soon taken into custody by foster care at only three years old where they “bounced around” as Simone called it during her CNN interview. She went from family to family, feeling unwanted and ignored. Simone was another child slipping through the foster care systems cracks.  Her Olympic gold medals were years away.

It wasn’t until they turned six that they were adopted by a very loving pair: their grandparents. Being adopted into this loving pair’s life, she finally felt as though she was a person that mattered and soon found her passion.

She now uses her platform of being one of the top gymnasts in the world to voice her feelings about the foster care system she had to endure. To put it her way, “there are nearly 400,000 children and youth in foster care…that is 400,000 talents waiting to be discovered.” There are almost half a million of our country’s children in foster care that are just waiting to find the home to which they will belong to.  That is half a million of our country’s children that haven’t gotten a chance to show the world or families how much they have to offer and a whole new perspective.

You never know, the next foster child in line at your local foster care could take her experiences and wisdom and become the next leader of a well-known humanitarian cause.

 

Cheryl Ricci

Guest Blogger

 

 

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10 Ways to Help Foster Children

Hearing about the struggles of children in foster care can be heartbreaking, but not everyone has the resources to become a foster parent. Fortunately, there are many other ways to make a difference!

Here are some actions to help a child in need:

  1. Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate – CASA volunteers advocate for the safety and well-being of children in foster care and work to ensure that they are placed in a permanent, loving home.
  2. Become A Mentor – Share your wisdom and friendship with a deserving child!
  3. Offer Advice to Youth – LifeSet Network aims to provide a support system to those aging out of foster care, and embarking into early adulthood.
  4. Offer Pro Bono Services – If you have a profession that can be of help to foster children, offer your services pro bono.
  5. Donate a Laptop – Foster children often aren’t able to afford necessary items like laptops when they go to college. Help put a worthy student on the path to success!
  6. Donate Items to a Foster Care Drive – It is important for a child to have something to call their own. Donate new toys, school supplies, and clothes at a foster care drive.
  7. Grant a Wish – Make a dream come true for an underprivileged child!
  8. Help Fund Grants – Children in foster care often lack access to extracurricular activities. Grants provide them with opportunities to become well-rounded students!
  9. Send A Care Package – Many former foster children face tremendous challenges that their peers don’t, including the lack of social support and lack of a familial safety net. A care package can provide essential support for a struggling young adult.

These are just a few ways in which you can have a positive impact on the life of a foster child. Conduct a quick Google search for more great ideas to help a child in need!

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You’re not alone

Often when children end up in foster care they feel left behind and as though no one really cares about them. José was one of those children. After being removed from his home due to neglect by his parents he felt as though he didn’t matter to anyone. This isn’t uncommon for kids in his situation. Luckily, CASA volunteers like Amanda can be there to help children like José.

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One day while Amanda was visiting with José, he was asking her questions about what she does for a living and when he found out that working for CASA wasn’t her job he was very confused. José didn’t understand why Amanda was helping him if it wasn’t part of her job. Amanda explained to him that she was a volunteer and that she didn’t get paid when she came to visit him, she was only there to help him and advocate for him because she cares about him. When José heard her response he was stunned, he couldn’t believe that a stranger would give up their free time just to help him.

It is important for foster children to feel as though they are important to someone and, regrettably, some children in foster care get overlooked because there aren’t enough CASA volunteers, mentors and supportive adults available to help all the children who need it. If you or someone you know would like to help and be one of the people who help remind foster children that they aren’t alone, volunteer at your local CASA program.

 

*This is a real story of CASA’s work with a child from Middlesex County. Names and some other identifying details have been changed in order to protect the confidentiality of the child involved.

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What does a CASA volunteer do?

When Court Appointed Special Advocates try to explain to their friends and family what they do it can often be involved, because what, exactly, does it mean to be an advocate for a child? The dictionary definition of advocacy is the act of supporting or recommending, so how does that help these children? Our advocates mainly have one thing in mind, helping the child find a safe, permanent home. Some of the key aspects of that work are listed here:

  1. Gather Information – it is important for the volunteer to know everything about the children involved in their case so they research documents and records, and interview family members and professionals that are in the children’s lives.
  2. Document Findings – the volunteer creates a written report of their findings for every court hearing.
  3. Appear in Court – volunteers show up in court and advocate in the child’s best interests.
  4. “Be the Glue” – the volunteers are the connection between all the individuals and organizations in the child’s life.
  5. Recommend Services – ensure that the child is receiving all the help they need in their health and education.
  6. Monitor Case Plans and Court Orders – volunteers help make sure that all plans are being followed and mandated review hearings are being held.

This may seem like a lot, but all of it boils down to making sure the child has a safe, permanent, and nurturing home. If you would like more information visit the CASA website to decide if being a volunteer is right for you.

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The Opioid Epidemic and Our Children

Just five years ago the United States was looking at some of the lowest foster care numbers they had ever seen; sadly, that number has been back on the rise in large part due to the opioid epidemic. According to Child Trends, around 32% of children who entered foster care in 2015 entered because of parental drug abuse. When looking specifically at the opioid epidemic, addictions aren’t always formed because of illegal uses of drugs like heroin, but sometimes after the use of legal substances like oxycodone, hydrocodone, or morphine.

Parents who are addicted to drugs often end up neglecting their children because of the drugs, whether it be from spending their money on drugs leaving little to none for their child’s needs or forgetting to care for the children while on the drugs. “Those who are using these drugs are often trying to escape their reality, and sadly that includes their children.” explained Colette Scozzafava, the Senior Program Coordinator at CASA of Middlesex. It’s not only the parents who have to deal with symptoms, more children are being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome and are having to deal with withdrawal from the moment they are born. Not to mention the children who are living with parents with a drug addiction are more likely to have sensory disorders, speech delays, and sleep anxieties, and could be in need of therapy or a specially licensed and trained foster family, says the National Institutes of Health.

As reported by the Washington Post, the influx of children entering the foster system within the past two years is largely because of the opioid epidemic. Mrs. Scozzafava explains that “often times with drug abuse parents will get better and get their children back, but then end up relapsing and the children have to go back into the system. How many relapses is too many? Especially since we currently don’t have enough resource families to take in all of the children who need homes.” In almost every state there aren’t enough foster or resource families, social workers have been overloaded with cases, and state budgets are being strained, as stated by the Washington Post.

Foster care systems all over the United States need our help.  If you are looking for a way that you can help Foster Coalition put together a list of different ways that you can help children in foster care.

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