This month the mission committee is highlighting three ways in which our church supports children in need. One of those is through an organization called C.A.S.A., or Court Appointed Special Advocate. CASA is a national organization whose mission is, together with state and local member programs, of supporting and promoting court appointed volunteer advocacy to every abused or neglected child in the United States so that ultimately every child can have a safe, permanent home and opportunity to thrive. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children to make sure that they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or linger in an inappropriate group or foster homes. Often, if a child is fortunate enough to be assigned a CASA, that volunteer becomes the one constant adult presence in their lives. Last year, more than 76,000 CASA volunteers helped more than 251,000 children nationwide, find safe, permanent homes.
Take for example the story of one child who was helped by a CASA volunteer. Told in her own words, Laura, and mother were horribly abused by her father. Once her father left, her mentally ill mother locked her in a back bedroom for a week without food or water. Once the police found her and she was released from the hospital, Laura entered foster care. For five years in foster care she had more than a dozed social workers and a new lawyer every court date, but only one CASA volunteer through it all. Laura had to experience many changes, different people and uncertainty throughout her life but knowing her CASA volunteer would always be there, advocating for her and supporting her, gave her something to hold onto. It kept her in school and moving forward. When she turned 18, Laura joined the Marine Corps and was able to get job training. Today, after serving two missions in Iraq, she is 27 and a successful adult, gainfully employed and taking college classes. She attributes much of her success to her CASA volunteer and says it meant the world to her.
If you would like to volunteer to be a CASA, please contact Mechiko White at email@example.com or 681-234-4278. It takes $1,000 a year to provide a CASA to each child and donations can be made through our church by specifying CASA on your check or you may donate directly by contacting Mechiko White.
Another way that our church is supporting children in need is through the Central of O’Fallon School mentoring program. Central School, District #104, tries to provide mentors for children in Kindergarten through eighth grade when they are referred by the school social workers. The children might be going through a difficult time in their lives, might be from a single parent home, or experiencing emotional or academic difficulties. Research has shown that when a positive adult connects with a child who is at risk, he or she becomes a role model that often results in better outcomes for the child’s success in life.
When children raised in dire circumstances were interviewed as successful adults and asked how they were able to overcome their difficult childhoods they most often cited one adult whose kindness towards them made all the difference in their lives. The influential person could have been a relative, a teacher, a neighbor, or someone at their church. Sometimes, the adult had very limited interaction with the child and might not have even known they were a positive influence. Central School mentors are asked to spend time with the child one hour one day per week, often just playing games, talking and establishing a positive, good relationship. The mentors meet with the assigned child during their school day. Benefits to the child include increased school motivation and improved self-esteem. Background checks are conducted by the school social workers. There are always children in need of this service. If you are interested in volunteering to be a mentor, please contact Phil Goodwin at 618-567-8454 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, OFFUMC supports the YMCA Operation Backpack program. Church members donate school supplies and backpacks to be distributed to needy children in O’Fallon. School supplies have gotten more and more expensive and much more is asked to be provided by parents today than was 30 years ago. The additional burden of buying a large amount of school supplies for their children can be impossible for a family who is barely making ends meet. Sometimes, children have to come to school without the proper supplies if they are not donated. The O’Fallon YMCA provides backpacks for children who are receiving free lunches during our church’s summer Feed My Lambs program (which was highlighted in May).
Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”
OFFUMC Mission Coordinator