Updated: Mar 28
Listening to the roar of arguments and crashing of glass bottles was just another regular weeknight for Aria and her younger siblings. The drinking, the yelling, the bruises--it was all regular until it wasn’t. Victims to a hostile home environment, Aria and her siblings were placed in the foster care system, each of them separated from another and sent to different foster homes.
Unable to adjust to such an abrupt change, Aria grew angry, began struggling in school, and battling with her mental health. She quickly started abusing drugs and was no sooner sent from household to household in the foster care system for being “uncontrollable.” Aria’s life continued to spiral out of control until she finally aged out of foster care and became homeless.
Aria’s story is not an anomaly, but one that is experienced by thousands of youth in foster care across our country. It is a story that could have ended differently with the help of a CASA volunteer and a mentor.
Youth in foster care face disproportionate risks of substance abuse, mental health issues, homelessness, lack of employment, lack of health care, involvement in the justice system, and lack of secondary education. This disheartening reality for them, however, is significantly improved with the support and guidance of a caring mentor.
According to the National Mentoring Partnership:
Young adults with a mentor are 55% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school
Young adults with a mentor are 78% more likely to volunteer regularly
Young adults with a mentor are 130% more likely to hold leadership positions
90% of youth with a mentor are interested in becoming a mentor
Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those without a mentor
Young adults with a mentor are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking
Young adults with a mentor are 81% more likely to participate regularly in sports or extracurricular activities than those who do not have a mentor
Mentors are an invaluable resource for youth, especially at-risk youth. With their guidance, youth in foster care are more supported, prepared, and motivated to achieve their dreams and lead happy, healthy lives.
Recognizing the importance of having a mentor, CASA volunteers will often recommend mentors for their CASA child during their investigation of a case, connecting the youth to a constant support system that, in conjunction with the help of a CASA volunteer, will guide the youth towards stability, happiness, and success. In some cases, CASA volunteers can even take the role as a mentor themselves.
It is CASA’s duty to benefit the best interests of the children we serve. In most cases, this means connecting our CASA children with mentors that will provide another layer of support in their often unpredictable lives. Together, CASA volunteers and mentors help change a child’s story.
If you are interested in creating a brighter pathway for youth in your community in honor of National Mentoring Month, consider becoming a CASA volunteer to speak up on behalf of children who have experienced abuse and neglect. You can also get involved by becoming a mentor through one of our partner organizations: Give Something Back Foundation, First Star, Americorps, Families to College, Stronger Families, Unidos para la Familia, or Family Strengthening Network.