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Overstressed child services should make greater use of volunteers

I was disheartened to read of the young girl’s story captured in the article “ ‘I think my mom believed me’ ” (Page A1, Jan. 31). I know these stories all too well as a previous foster youth, an adoptive father, and the executive director of Boston CASA, a nonprofit organization that provides volunteer court-appointed special advocates, or CASAs, to children in foster care.

While I cannot speak to the details of this particular case, in which a girl repeatedly accused her father of abusing her, let me share what my experience tells me. No matter how much we lower caseloads, provide social workers with ipads, change licensure requirements, and modify the process of how cases are investigated, children will continue to slip through the cracks of a system that is simply not a suitable replacement for a safe and permanent family.

A visit every month from a state Department of Children and Families worker is not close enough attention to ensure that a child receives the quality of care that I would expect for my own son or your readers would expect for their children.

While not the only fix to an overburdened system, having CASA volunteers in the lives of these children often goes a long way toward ensuring that they are more closely monitored while in foster care and that courts have more information in order to make the most informed decisions possible.

CASA volunteers often become the most safe and consistent adults in the lives of these children. While they do not replace parents, they take on some of the characteristics that all of us hope for in our parents. They demand better for these children and show up in a way that time-stressed professionals often can’t. DCF and the courts cannot do it alone.


In Massachusetts, only 10 to 15 percent of children in foster care are appointed CASA volunteers, while in many states most foster children receive this critical support. Hundreds of community members are willing to help address a social issue that we are far from solving.

Charles Lerner
Executive Director
Boston CASA