'Look for the Helpers': Thoughts from CASA SHaW

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There’s something extraordinary about groups of people joining forces to stand together, share ideas, and fight one of the hardest battles there is. CASA programs are nationwide and we share the same missions and ideas. Our only interest is the best interest of a child.

We are thrilled to have the Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties (CASA SHaW), as a guest writer for our blog.

Please share this article with your friends and family and “Like” CASA SHaW on Facebook!

By Tracey Heisler

Executive Director,


I read the papers online every day, scanning for news about child abuse and neglect, innovative programs for kids in foster care, emerging best practices, parenting tips to help aid in prevention efforts, and inspirational stories that relate to the advocacy work we do here at CASA SHaW.  With few exceptions, every day I find at least one or two stories on every site about adults who did horrible things to children – beatings, molestation, starvation, even death – and the accompanying outrage in the community once it is becomes public knowledge.

Last week two stories stood out. In one case in California, the headline said it all:   “Couple starved their three children so badly they looked like concentration camp victims and kept one adopted daughter chained to the floor.”  The other spoke of underground “rehoming” of adopted children, often among pedophiles, where children were traded like baseball cards for sexual abuse. If the abuse is reported, the children are quickly transferred elsewhere so they cannot participate in the investigation of the allegations – they just disappear.

As I read these tales of horror and wondered how we as a species could be so depraved as to prey upon those who are the most vulnerable among us, I fought the urge to put all of humanity into the same creepy bucket.  The sheer volume of children who are violated, abused, and tortured is overwhelming and upsetting.  What can one person do?

Then I saw a quote from Fred Rogers, the trusted adult from PBS who I watched during childhood, who gave good counsel:  “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”  I have spent my life trying to be one of those helpers, and even it I cannot make it stop I at least try to make a difference in my little corner of the world.  What other alternative is there?

It can be difficult when you read about these horrors to abide in the moment.  It’s so much easier to change the channel, turn the page, click to a new website.  However, no matter how often we avert our eyes, it doesn’t change the fact that children are being exploited, abused, and even murdered in our own communities.  We need to look, we need to see, we need to act to ensure the safety of not only our children but our neighbor’s children, our children’s classmates, and the children we don’t know. 

With more than 3 million calls to the national hotline and 180,000 to the New Jersey hotline annually, there are plenty of opportunities for us to note when something is wrong and get help for children who desperately need caring and concerned adults to see them.  Don’t look away.  Be one of the everyday heroes who calls the hotline, volunteers for CASA, mentors through Big Brothers/Big Sisters or other child serving organizations, and stays in the moment when the moment is hard to bear.  As hard as it is for you to be there, imagine how it is for a child to be there and to live it.

To learn more about CASA SHaW, visit their website, www.casashaw.org.

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