Nearly three-quarters of a million children are victims of abuse and neglect in the United States every year. This article describes the scope of the problem and explains how the child welfare system intervenes, including how cases are reported, how Child Protective Services (CPS) assesses the risk, how CPS determines when in-home services are appropriate or if a child should be removed from the home, how ongoing cases are managed, and the options for permanency for children in the system. The article also explains how the Family Court system operates as the decision-maker in child abuse and neglect cases and discusses the various models of legal representation provided to child victims, depending on the jurisdiction in which they live. The authors document how outcomes for child victims of abuse and neglect are greatly improved when their representation includes the appointment of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA Volunteer) to advocate for their best interests. The history of the CASA model is outlined, and the structure of the current program, which includes over 76,000 volunteers in nearly 1000 local programs in 49 states, is described. This article explains the CASA methodology and how this intervention improves outcomes for abused and neglected children. The authors argue that greater public and private support would provide more local CASA agencies with the resources to recruit, train, and support more CASA Volunteers to help more child victims of abuse and neglect.
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