By Matthew Evans
What does it take to be in the one percent? Well, in our four counties (Maries, Phelps, Pulaski, & Texas) it takes a lot. In fact, to be in the one percent you are under 18. You found yourself faced with no choice. You are removed from your home. You are likely a victim of physical or sexual abuse or neglect.
You are most likely scared, confused, and upset. You are possibly doing poorly in school because of the uncertainty in your life. You will most likely find yourself in this situation for around two years. You will often feel as if no one is listening...like no one cares.
You are the one percent.
Currently two percent of our region’s children found themselves in state care over the past 12 months. That is equal to 676 kids. You would not treat your animals like some of these children were treated. They are victims. They are children.
Half of these children (one percent) had a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). Half of these children had a consistent voice advocating on their behalf. Half of these children had someone speaking up to help change their story...for the better. They had a CASA as part of their team. We have great partners in our system, but they are overwhelmed. They need our help. A CASA can provide that help...and they do.
I remember the outrage about the one percent over the past decade. I remember the signs as people marched. I remember thinking how powerful that number, one percent, was. As laypeople we can protest and march for change at the top. But we can all take action today to eliminate a different one percent statistic—the one percent without a voice...those without a CASA.
To make this happen, let’s be frank. We need people. We need people to advocate. We need approximately 200 more folks to give of themselves and commit to a child to help be their voice. We also need people to give. Like I said, I’m going to be frank. At CASA, we are a nonprofit. We work hard to use the funds we are given to the best of our ability. We must continue to provide recruitment, training, and support for our volunteers. We try diligently to meet the needs of the kids we serve, whether it is a laptop, basketball shoes for school, school supplies, games and toys, or other items they need to be a kid.
On average, it takes more than $1,300 each year to effectively meet the needs of our volunteers and children, and to maintain the standards we are required to meet to be a CASA organization. You can do the math. That is just shy of $900,000 each year to serve 100 percent of our kids. We are serving 50 percent now and believe we can provide an advocate for every child in care who needs a CASA by 2021...but we need everyone’s help to get there.
We are constantly seeking out grants and other funding sources. We hold events, fundraisers, and ask for donations. We started a monthly giving program where you can simply have a set amount donated each month. We keep working to make the math work. We aren’t there yet. I have faith we will get there, as I have always had faith in my community.
We are a community that always rises to the occasion. We are a community that is always there when someone needs a hand. We are a community of people who care.
I believe in our future and I believe that by this time in 2021 I will be able to say that there is no longer a one percent. I believed that when I began my journey at CASA of South Central Missouri and believe it even more today.
So, please consider making a commitment to give one percent to help the one percent. Whether that is one percent of your time, one percent or your pay, or one percent or your efforts toward sharing why this is important.
If we all just give one percent to help the one percent, our community would be a much better place.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Matthew Evans is the executive director of CASA of South Central Missouri, which is located in Rolla. Their phone number is 573-426-5437 and website is www.casascmo.org. Crawford County is served by Mid-Ozark CASA in Cuba. Their phone number is 573-677-2022 and website is www.midozarkcasa.com.