When 16-year-old Jamie met her ProKids Volunteer, Anne, the girl couldn’t look at her. She barely talked. She had been living in a program where she received intensive therapy, diagnosed with an eating disorder and PTSD. Jamie didn’t know her dad. She and her mom had been homeless, and, according to the reports, there had been abuse and neglect.
It took a while for Jamie to get comfortable with Anne and open up to her. When Jamie finally spoke, she mentioned that she needed something to read. So, Anne brought her some books they could both read, and they bonded as they discussed the novels. As they had conversations over the next two years, Anne saw that Jamie was curious and smart.
Anne had come to ProKids as a volunteer because she wanted to support children who had lost all the things that bring kids strength, stability and hope. At ProKids, she was trained to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate, known as a CASA Volunteer. After her training, Anne was assigned to advocate for children like Jamie, who have been removed from their home due to abuse and neglect. These children become the responsibility of the child protection system; in Cincinnati, they are overseen by Hamilton County Job & Family Services and the Hamilton County Juvenile Court.
But it takes all of us to make sure these children don’t fall through the holes in this safety net, particularly during a pandemic that has stretched resources – for community services and for families – past their breaking point.
This is where you come in. ProKids needs your financial support to make the work of volunteers like Anne possible. Giving Tuesday, with a matching gift waiting for your donation, is the perfect opportunity to start your holiday season making a powerful difference.
Anne and about 300 other community volunteers, from all walks of life, are helping kids navigate new homes – sometimes in foster care, sometimes with relatives and sometimes in a program like Jamie’s. These kids have to get used to a new school, not always being with their siblings and all kinds of other challenges. So, a CASA Volunteer visits the child on a regular basis to get to know the child. CASA Volunteers also talk to the child’s teachers, doctors, therapists and others in a child’s life to understand the whole picture.
This way they can advocate for the best interest of the child. CASA Volunteers recommend things like special resources in the child’s classroom. They make sure children have what they need from a winter coat to reliable internet for remote learning. They ensure the child is up to date with medical and dental care, which is critical for children who may not previously had access to such services.
ProKids CASA Volunteers have one case at a time, so they can focus on the needs of one child or a sibling group to make sure they are safe and they can thrive. This thoughtful care is why abuse has stopped for 99% of the children ProKids has served over the past 20 years.
ProKids volunteers can give this personalized attention because of the community’s support.
While for Jamie, Anne could bond over books, ProKids also serves much younger children who need a constant in their lives – someone who can provide the ongoing monitoring and support they need when everything else in their life is changing. This can mean making sure a baby is achieving developmental milestones or that a 10-year-old gets the chance to play soccer. CASA Volunteers really get to know the child and their needs. With the support of their ProKids team, the CASA Volunteer will eventually advise the court, which determines who will raise a child after they are removed from their home, about the best permanent home for the child.
For Jamie, that eventually meant her own county-funded apartment with a support system. Since she’d never lived in a normal home, she didn’t know how to take care of her apartment or keep it clean. She kept her toaster in the living room. She needed a lot of advice from Anne.
Jamie worked on graduating from high school and handling her mental health issues as she settled into her apartment. Throughout this time, Anne was a consistent presence.
“She has a number she can call, and I get to share the joy and happy times and help her through the rough times,” Anne says.
Despite everything, she graduated from high school – even in the midst of the pandemic.
Anne helped with the little things: helping Jamie get her state I.D., making sure she was ready for her first day of college and just picking up the phone when Jamie needed advice.
By making a donation this Giving Tuesday, you ensure that more children like Jamie can get a CASA Volunteer to stand up for them. Last year, ProKids was able to serve over 1,000 kids and make a meaningful difference in their lives. But there are many more children in Hamilton County who need ProKids – and you.
Support ProKids this #GivingTuesday so that more kids like Jamie have people like Anne in their lives.
Our thanks to ProKids for providing this content.