As I type this, 213 Malheur County children spend their night in foster care. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Chronic neglect and abuse of our community’s children have long-term effects. Children who experience repeated incidents of neglect and abuse are nine times more likely to be involved in criminal activity, have an 80% higher chance of a psychological disorder and make up two-thirds of patients seeking drug and alcohol treatment. All of us suffer the consequences of child abuse.

Children, more than anything, need adults in their lives they can trust and depend on. Over the past year, we have seen the effects on children of reduced community support. Children who do not experience neglect and abuse have suffered from decreased contacts with extended family, teachers and coaches. Children who are neglected and abused suffer from the lack of support, year after year, to a much higher degree.

I am writing this letter to recruit community members to volunteer to help our most vulnerable children. We need foster parents to provide love and a stable home to children whose parents are temporarily incapable of doing so. We need Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) to build relationships with children in our dependency system and to be their voice. We need Citizen Review Board members to provide oversight over parents and the Department of Human Services. While any volunteer is greatly appreciated, we are especially lacking male role models in our CASA program. Our children need support from their community. Our volunteers are just ordinary people that do this extraordinary thing.

If you are interested in finding out more about being a foster parent, contact Rebecca Garrison at (503) 539-6563. If you are interested in being a CASA, please call (541) 403-1375. If you want to apply to be on the Citizen Review Board, please contact John Nichols at (541) 233-8142.

Lung S. Hung is the presiding judge for Circuit Court Ninth Judicial District (Malheur County), in Vale.

Adam Rodakowski is the director of GOBHI’s Therapeutic Foster Care program. Patrick Mulvihill, GOBHI communications coordinator, also contributed to this article. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.

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