Our Opinion: Open your hearts to children in need

Friday, October 6, 2017

Open Arms Christian Ministries will be hosting an informational meeting Saturday about the need and importance of foster parents in the community. The presentation will be at the Jasonville United Methodist Church at 4 p.m. and will provide information about the growing need for foster parents in Indiana.

The state requires an extensive background check and licensing to become a foster parent, but thatís not the hard part. A family has to be willing to bring a stranger into their home and be prepared to open their heart.

Many of these children have gone through unimaginable situations, which may have put them in harms way and they have probably seen things no child should see. Which is why it is important to place these children with families dedicated to opening their homes and their hearts to a child who is separated from their own family.

It sounds scary, but a foster parent could potentially change the course of a childís life by offering a positive influence and helping guide them in the right direction.

Itís no secret our area is riddled with drug, mental and physical abuse. As we see the numbers go up in jails across the state, the silent victims are the children of those making their way through the legal system. Because they are minors, their faces stay in the shadows.

So, it is up to the men and women in the community to step up and help bring them out of the shadows into some semblance of the life they deserve.

According to an Indiana state fact sheet released by the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) in 2016, 14,452 children in Indiana lived apart from their families in out-of-home care in 2014.

For more information call (812) 659-2533.

If welcoming a child into your home is not an option, but you still want to offer services to children in need, the Greene County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program is always seeking volunteers.

CASA director Samantha Flath said an informational meeting is scheduled Tuesday, Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. at the Goosepond Pizza in Linton.

CASA volunteers give children in need of services (CHINs) a voice, as many of them have to navigate through the court system themselves. The volunteers work with abused and neglected children and serve as the childís voice to ensure the children do not get lost in the legal system and are not forgotten about in a foster or group home.

Volunteers attend court hearings, school conferences and child and family team meetings. They also meet with the child, the childís parents, teachers, health care providers and family case managers to discuss both the child and the family.

Being pulled from oneís family or even school can be traumatizing, and it can be all too easy to get lost in the system. The role of the CASA is to step up, listen, understand the childís needs and ensure they are represented.

Though several local people have stepped up to be the voice of a child in need of service, Flath said there are still 19 children on a waiting list to be represented.

Itís not the childís fault if they start their lives in a less-than-ideal home situation. It is up to us as a community to open up our hearts to help break the cycle.

Those interested are asked to email CASA@co.greene.in.us or call (812) 384-2036 to let the staff know who will be in attendance or to request an application.