Skip to main content

The Lasting Effect of Abuse and Neglect

Addressing an urgent need

The stats are harrowing. In 2021, eight out of every 1,000 U.S. children were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect. That’s why the need for CASA volunteers is so great. CASA volunteers advocate for the best interests of children who are involved in the court system as a result of abuse or neglect.

For many of these children, their CASA advocate will be the one constant in an otherwise chaotic life.

Read more about the role of the CASA volunteer and best-interest advocacy.

The children we serve have experienced significant trauma.

The vast majority of children who are victims of maltreatment have suffered from neglect. Physical abuse accounted for 16 percent of child maltreatment victims in 2021. Some children are subjected to both physical abuse and neglect.

Physical abuse and neglect are two of a number of highly stressful, potentially traumatic experiences known as “adverse childhood experiences,” or ACEs. Among other ACEs children who have experienced abuse or neglect may have been subjected to are:

  • witnessing violence,
  • sexual or emotional abuse,
  • having mental illness in the household,
  • and incarceration of a household member.

One in ten children in the U.S. has experienced three or more ACEs.

For children who are removed from their families, that removal and life in foster care can add to the trauma.

The impacts of this trauma can last a lifetime.

Experiencing abuse, neglect and other ACEs can cause feelings of helplessness and intense fear in children.

Trauma can mark children’s health and ability to thrive immediately, and as they age, including negatively impacting:

  • brain development
  • physical health
  • mental health
  • educational
  • achievement
  • behavior
  • income

But there is hope. Some children are more resilient to the impacts of trauma. For others, it’s a relationship with a supportive adult—like a CASA volunteer—that makes the difference.

CASA volunteers help children—and families—access services that promote healing.

CASA volunteers are trained to understand the impact of trauma on children.

They spend time with children and the people in their lives. They talk to service providers, teachers and social workers to gather information that will help them make informed recommendations to the court.

Based on what they learn, our volunteers advocate for services that help children develop resilience without causing additional trauma. They also encourage services that strengthen parents’ relationships with their children.