Op Ed from our 17th Judicial District Attorney, Don Quick

In my 24 years as a prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the innocent children in our community who have been abused and neglected. These children live too often in the shadows of our community. Too often, we do not have contact with these children who need and deserve our help the most. They may be in your child's kindergarten class or at the park where your children play. You just don't know.

It is time that we bring these kids out of the shadows. As a community, we need to shine a light on both these children and upon ourselves to take responsibility for them.

When the abuse and neglect becomes apparent, the children enter the social service and justice systems. There judges, attorneys, social workers and foster parents intervene in the lives of these children. However, these professionals have high caseloads and cannot do it alone. Annually, 748,000 children in the U.S. are placed in foster care. Here in Adams and Broomfield Counties, over 1,300 abused and neglected kids each year enter the Court system. The court and social service professionals do their best for these kids. However, due to the volume of cases and limited resources, too many children are still subjected to lengthy stays and/or successive foster homes. The different professionals each have separate roles and responsibilities in these cases. However, each child also deserves to have a caring and trained adult in their corner. Each child deserves a CASA.

CASA of Adams and Broomfield Counties is a nonprofit organization which trains and supports volunteers to speak and act as advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children. They are trained to work within the child welfare and juvenile court systems and are appointed by judges to individual cases. With the help of a CASA volunteer, a child is half as likely to languish in the foster care system, and that much more likely to find a safe and permanent home. There is no doubt about the transformative impact a CASA volunteer can have on a child. However, today only 35% of the children in need have access to a CASA volunteer. Nearly 1,000 children here in our community do not have that advocate. We are dedicated to ensuring that every child in the foster care and child welfare system has a qualified CASA volunteer looking out for their best interests. To do this, we will need to more than double the 280 current CASA volunteers in Adams and Broomfield Counties. Especially needed are volunteers of color, as African American and Latino children are overrepresented in the child welfare and juvenile court systems.

Every child has a right to thrive and to be treated with dignity. Every child has a right to live in a safe and loving home. Every child deserves a fighting chance.

Once grown these former foster kids could be our future doctors, teacher, and leaders. Coming through a period of vulnerability and fear the child can then understand his potential and his rights. Each child has the right to have hope for a different, a better life. That is our opportunity and our challenge.

I invite the people of Adams and Broomfield Counties to stand up with me and support these children. CASA is hosting its annual 'Kaleidoscope of Hope' Fund raising Luncheon on November 17, 2011 from 12:00- 1:00 PM at the Denver Merchandise Mart. I encourage you to attend and learn more how you can help CASA's fight for the basic rights of our children. Please visit casa17th.org for more information or call 303.654.3378.