CASA Advocates for Normalcy for Foster Children this Summer

June 29, 2017

July in Texas is full of sun, swimming pools and tons of outdoor activities. While most children have the opportunity to enjoy their summer vacation by attending camps, participating in sports or having a summer job, there are many children who do not get the chance to experience these sorts of summertime activities through no fault of their own.

Removed from home and placed in the child welfare system because of evidence of abuse or neglect, these children are already facing trauma that no child should experience – yet on top of all of that, for decades, they have been denied common normal childhood activities.

In the past, foster children were obligated to receive approval from their caseworker before participating in any type of normalcy activity.

“Normalcy” is a term for any experiences that contribute to a child’s autonomy and social functioning. Common activities such as sleeping over at a friend’s house required background checks on all members of that household. Often, a child’s foster parents chose to avoid liability issues entirely by simply denying the child’s request.

But change is coming. CASA of West Texas understands how important it is for foster children and youth to have the chance to build peer relationships and partake in everyday activities to promote positive mental health.

“Friendship and socialization are essential for children to maintain good health and psychological well-being,” said Patty Pisklak, executive director of CASA of West Texas. “Our CASA volunteers strive to help ensure each child can experience as normal of a childhood as possible.”  

During the 2015 legislative session, Texas CASA and the statewide CASA community championed Senate Bill 1704, the so-called “normalcy bill,” that allows foster parents to use a prudent parenting standard to make decisions about a child’s participation in age appropriate activities. This bill grants foster parents protection from liability for injuries or negative outcomes that result from normalcy activities – shifting the decision-making role from caseworker to caregiver.

Having normal, age-appropriate childhood experiences is important for children to form positive relationships – participating in social activities ultimately leads to happiness, higher cognitive capacity and overall enhanced well-being.

CASA volunteers are essential in helping youth in foster care have normal childhoods by educating foster parents, caseworkers and others about the normalcy bill and by speaking up for children to have access to normalcy activities. Within their role, they can help children and youth understand that access to normalcy activities is a right that is granted to them, as well as remind foster parents of the importance of these sorts of activities and connect them with information about free activities in the community.

“These children have been through enough. The last thing they need is to be punished by not being allowed to experience normal activities with their peers,” said Patty Pisklak. “This summer, we aim to help foster children in our community have the opportunity to partake in fun, exciting experiences so they may flourish and grow as other children do.”

CASA volunteers are specially trained and appointed by judges to speak up for a child and advocate for their unique needs in court, at school and in other settings. They also get to know the other adults in the child’s life, including foster parents, caseworkers, counselors and more, and work with them to ensure the best interests of the child comes first.

Ultimately, true normalcy is achieved when children are placed in a forever home with a loving family, but while they are in the child welfare system, they need a voice to speak up for them, to ensure they are able to participate in any hobby or occupation they wish to pursue. They need a consistent, familiar and trustworthy adult in their life that they can count on. You can help change the life of a foster youth by becoming a CASA volunteer with CASA of West Texas.

Become a CASA volunteer and be a positive role model in a foster child’s life until they reach a safe, permanent home where they can grow and thrive. Take advantage of CASA of West Texas next training date on October 23, 2017. You can also find more information at www.casawtx.org or call (432) 683-1114.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

Category: Updates