Imagine being a young child, suddenly torn away from your family. You weren’t given the care you deserved. Perhaps you were even physically abused. But it was the only life you knew, and it was your family. If you were young enough, some of the horrors you endured might, in your still-developing mind, pale in comparison to facing the unknown.
You enter foster care with a brother or sister, the only comfort in a world of uncertainty. Then, hours or days later, your sole support is gone. You’re put in separate homes, and have no idea if, or when, you’ll see your sibling again.
When a child’s entire world has been turned upside down, it is unconscionable to make it even worse. Yet states do this all the time. Not because they’re mean-spirited, but because too many child welfare systems lack the capacity to treat children as human beings. The consequences of these many small acts of inhumanity are devastating.
In our cover story, “Struggling for Sibling Connections,” Edgar Carranza describes waiting for months for his caseworker to arrange the rare one-hour visits with his brother. David Oliva, whose youth was punctuated with physical abuse and instability before he went into foster care and was separated from his brothers, says, “The only thing that bothers me is the feeling of not having a family.”
Deanna knows she was fortunate in one respect. Although she and her younger sister lived in a box in the New Jersey bogs until the ASPCA rescued them, Alyssa “was with me all the time.” And they stayed together–after Children’s Rights named Deanna and Alyssa as plaintiffs in our New Jersey class action, the girls were adopted into a loving, permanent home. According to Deanna, “Children’s Rights gave us a voice. Now, we’re free of the neglect that we experienced for so long.” It’s one of the most powerful endorsements we could get for our work.
But there are others. You will also read stirring words from Tomas Rios, CR’s engagement media associate, who recounts growing up in New York City foster homes where he was kicked, burned and went to bed hungry. He is writing this May in honor of National Foster Care Month, when we will launch a blog-a-day public awareness campaign that gives firsthand accounts of experiences in child welfare. “There is nothing I can do that will change what happened to me, but I can do something to help future generations,” writes Tomas. “That’s why I decided to work for Children’s Rights.”
It is these types of stories that convinced Jay Galluzzo, co-founder and CEO of Flywheel Sports, Inc., to become the newest member of our Board of Directors. “For each child that we can put into a safer environment, or expose to something more loving than a current state system provides, there is more of an opportunity for that child to do something spectacular,” says Jay. “This is an organization that is taking every dollar raised, stretching it to two and putting it to good use.”
Proudly, Charity Navigator agrees. We just learned that the country’s most prominent charity evaluator awarded Children’s Rights four stars–its highest rating, and one that goes to only 25 percent of non-profits in the U.S. It is evidence that, when you support CR, your hard-earned dollars are used wisely.
The rating is a great accolade–but it is young people like Deanna and Tomas who inspire us to improve child welfare, day after day. Please support us as we fight for the rights of America’s abused and neglected youth. We cannot continue our life-saving work without you.
Read additional articles in Notes from the Field, the Children’s Rights Newsletter: