Supporting children and youth in the new school year

July 30, 2021


SEATTLE, Washington – As children and youth prepare to return to school this fall, many are hopeful about returning to a sense of normalcy. The U.S. Department of Education anticipates that most schools across the country will offer in-person learning at the start of the school year, and this will be the first time in a physical classroom in over a year for many children. Starting a new school year can bring feelings of excitement, anticipation, or anxiety for many children and youth. For those in the child welfare system, returning to school may bring a sense of stability—an opportunity to reconnect with friends, favorite teachers, and extracurricular activities that support their social-emotional learning and overall wellbeing. For others who may find themselves with new foster parents, a new home, or a new school, the start of the academic year could bring more feelings of uncertainty. Regardless of the circumstance, a consistent adult who listens and cares can make a real difference.

I’m proud of the CASA and GAL volunteers who are providing this source of support and stability for more than 276,000 children nationwide as they advocate for the best interests of children and youth, including their educational needs. Through coordination with everyone involved in the child’s or youth’s like—family members, teachers, social workers, school counselors, and others—our volunteers provide critical insights to the judge that can have a direct impact on the educational success and overall well-being of a child or youth.

Each day I see examples of the life-changing impact of CASA/GAL volunteers. Studies have shown that children who are assigned a CASA or GAL volunteer tend to perform better academically and are more likely to succeed in school, as measured by whether or not they passed all of their courses, whether or not they were expelled, and their conduct performance. Our highly-trained volunteers advocate for what the child or youth may need to fully participate in learning by recommending resources, tools, and services to meet the child’s needs, in the classroom and in all aspects of their life. Especially this year, our volunteers are providing a sense of assurance by checking in before the first day of school to ease anxiety, celebrate new opportunities and offer support and encouragement.

As we prepare for this new school year, it’s important to acknowledge the teachers, school administrators, parents, and community members who are working hard to ensure that students can learn safely and make academic progress. I want to also acknowledge the CASA and GAL volunteers who are helping children and youth meet their potential and capitalize on their strengths, and to thank all those who are supporting National CASA/GAL and our nationwide network in our efforts to recruit and train these exceptional volunteers. For children and youth across the country who have experienced abuse or neglect, the range of emotions in this new school year may be unknown. But we do know that having a caring adult by their side is critical, and it is needed now more than ever.

If you would like to be an advocate for children and youth, I encourage you to learn more about becoming a CASA today.

Tara Lisa Perry
CEO, National CASA/GAL Association for Children

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