“I often say that America can be defined in one word — possibilities. No matter our background or circumstance, every child in America has the right to go as far as their dreams will take them. But those dreams are rarely reached alone. We all benefit from the support, wisdom, and nurturing of mentors who navigated the path before us.
By standing on the shoulders of mentors, young people have led America forward at each inflection point in our history. I will never forget the many mentors who encouraged and empowered me as a student, as a local elected official in my twenties, and as a young United States Senator finding my way. During National Mentoring Month, we honor all those parents and family members, teachers and coaches, employers and co-workers, community and faith leaders, and so many others who devote time, care, and energy to helping our young people thrive.”
– President Joe Biden’s Declaration of January 2022 as National Mentoring Month
January is National Mentoring Month. Our CASA volunteers take on this role in the lives of the most vulnerable children in our community. For children who have experienced abuse/neglect, the trauma (1) Damages their self-esteem & emotional health; (2) Teaches them their feelings are not important; (3) Negatively affects physical, mental & emotional development; (4) Results in long-term consequences (e.g., poor academic achievement, depression & personality disorders); (5) Fosters an unhealthy self-image; and (6) Hinders their ability to form stable relationships.
Research shows that mentors play a powerful role in providing young people with the tools to make responsible choices, attend and engage in school, and reduce or avoid risky behavior.
In turn, these young people are:
55% more likely to be enrolled in college.
81% more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities.
78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities.
More than twice as likely to say they held a leadership position in a club or sports team.
Yet, the same research shows that one in three young people in our country will grow up without a mentor.
For the last three years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ranked Kentucky first among all states in child maltreatment. Jefferson County has the highest number of cases in the state, and CASA’s service area receives 1 in 8 cases in the Commonwealth.
With so many children needing a mentor, CASA constantly trains everyday volunteers to be their trusted friend and advocate. When trained CASA volunteers are paired with abused/neglected children they ensure they have at least one, consistent, adult to support them throughout their case despite the number of home placements and length of case.
Being paired with a CASA gives vulnerable children the security of knowing that someone cares and that someone will speak up for them. A CASA explains, “We affect small changes now and those changes can be monumental in ways we cannot predict.”
This year, we are asking everyone in the community to become engaged with mentoring relationships like being a CASA volunteer.
CASA volunteers must be at least 21 years of age, complete the online application, pass several background checks, interview with our Director of Advocacy, and complete our 5-week virtual training program. Upon completion, volunteers will be sworn by a Family Court Judge and paired with a CASA Advocacy Supervisor to be their mentor during this rewarding volunteer opportunity.
Olivia Whatton became a CASA in July 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. When asked why she decided to take on this opportunity she said, "To me, being a CASA means using my voice to advocate for children in need. It means building a relationship with a child who hasn’t known the consistent safety of a caring adult. It means check-ins with teachers, therapists, and caregivers. In Kentucky, we have the highest rate of child abuse in the country.
We need to be better. As adults, it’s our duty to protect little ones until they are old enough and capable of protecting themselves. Being a CASA is an honor - children are bright lights in this world, deserving of all the steppingstones needed to reach their incredible potential, and it’s our job to help keep them safe along their journey."
Jefferson County Family Court Judge Derwin Webb stressed the need for diverse populations to sign up to volunteer. "I see abused children of all races and colors. Unfortunately, I see an increase in the number of children of color that need help. This heartbreaking reality illuminates the need for more people to step up to the plate and make time for children that look like them.”
“The only way I can make an informed decision on what is in that child’s best interest is to have individuals on the frontline taking an active role in the lives of these young people. We need more volunteers of color to help them become the best representations of themselves. More importantly, they need to see someone who looks like them that cares."
Our first virtual training program of the year starts January 13. The next training class starts on February 28.
If you are ready to start your journey as a CASA volunteer, complete the online application here. Or to learn more about becoming a mentor in the lives of the most vulnerable children in our community, join CASA’s virtual information sessions, every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month. To sign up for a virtual information session, visit www.casarr.org/casa101
National Mentoring Month is led by MENTOR, the national unifying champion of the mentoring movement. Each year since its launch in 2002, the campaign has enjoyed the strong support of the President and the United States Congress. Other well-known supporters include the late Maya Angelou, Clint Eastwood, Senator John McCain, Quincy Jones, General Colin L. Powell, Cal Ripken Jr., MENTOR co-founder Bill Russell, and Usher. In 2016, President Barack Obama’s office shared a National Mentoring Month press release highlighting the crucial role that mentors play in young people’s lives.