Meet Danielle Seck, a survivor of child abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and suicide. Like many of the children that Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) serve, Danielle suffered and was removed from her home as a child due to abuse and neglect.
She recalls witnessing evidence of her mother being beaten by her boyfriend and living in a house filled with constant violent arguments. She was one of the five million children who witness domestic violence each year in the US and research has shown that that children exposed to domestic violence are at increased risk of being abused or neglected.
“Between the ages of 3-5 years old, I went to bed many nights without food as punishment. I was beaten almost daily and had many bruises on various parts of my body. I was made to walk six miles to my babysitter by myself in the hood.”
When Danielle was removed from her home and placed into foster care, she was fortunate enough to have a CASA volunteer assigned to her case. CASA is a non-profit organization that recruit, screen, train and supervise community volunteers to “Speak Up for a Child” removed from home due to abuse or neglect. CASA works one-on-one with an abused and/or neglected child, advocating for his or her best interests and working towards achieving permanency in a safe, nurturing home as soon as possible.”
“I remember my CASA keeping me calm while at court. I knew for sure that he was on my side and was there for me. I had never felt that before. He made sure that I felt comfortable in a very crazy and unusual place. I hated going to the courthouse and he made it more pleasant.”
When the court is making decisions that will affect a child’s future, the child needs and deserves a spokesperson, an objective adult to provide independent information about the best interest of the child. While other parties in the case are concerned about the child, they also have other interests. The CASA volunteer is the only person on the case whose sole concern is the best interest of the child. CASA volunteers are assigned one case at a time, one CASA volunteer to one case, to provide a “voice in court”. A CASA volunteer can give his or her full individual attention to a case.
“I knew that if no one else was there for me; dad, mom, step mom, mom’s boyfriend, I knew he definitely had my back. That feeling was so strong. I had never experienced that before…I recall telling a friend that I had one adult friend that would not hurt me and that was my CASA.”
Her troubled past lead her into an abusive relationship as an adult and before that relationship ended she tried to end her life. Since then, she has grown into a strong woman who has a passion for speaking out for children, women and men who have no voice. She is currently in training to become a CASA volunteer, started an organization called Don’t Be Quiet and is completing a book that tells her life story in hopes of helping those who are suffering from abuse. Keep up the amazing work Danielle, you deserve all the happiness in the world. Our CASA staff, volunteers and supporters wish all the luck with your future endeavors and thankful to have you as a CASA volunteer!