July in Oklahoma is full of fun, swimming pools, barbecues, and time with family. Many children have the opportunity to enjoy their summer vacation by attending camps, participating in sports, or having a summer job, but there are many children in foster care who do not get the chance to experience these summertime activities.
Removed from their home and placed into the child welfare system, these children are already facing trauma that no child should experience — their participation in normal childhood activities with their peers often becomes an afterthought.
“Children living in foster care can feel disconnected from other kids their age because of what they’re going through, so it is important to help them feel as normal as possible,” said Suzanne Hughes, executive director of CASA for Children. “Getting the chance to participate in normal childhood activities — and just be a kid — can be essential to a child’s well-being.”
“Normalcy” is a term commonly used in child welfare for any experiences that contribute to a child’s autonomy and social functioning. Activities associated with “normal” childhood such as sleepovers, pool parties, having an ice cream cone, or going to a dance can be imperative to a child’s sense of security, regularity, and well-being. Another aspect of normalcy is working to ensure that the realities and difficulties of a child’s situation interrupt their everyday lives as little as possible.
“Friendship and socialization are imperative for children to maintain good health and psychological well-being. While things like visitation, appointments, and therapy are essential for the children we serve, we don’t want them to come in the way of everyday activities that are also important to their development like school or extracurricular activities,” Hughes said.
Foster parents, CASA volunteers, caseworkers and others who serve children in foster care must work together to make normalcy a priority, Hughes said.
“These children have been through enough. The last thing they need is to be excluded from fun social activities with their peers,” she said.
This summer, CASA for Children aims to help local children in foster care have the opportunity to partake in normal, age-appropriate experiences.
CASA volunteers are specially trained and appointed by judges to speak up for a child and advocate for their unique needs in court, at school, and in other settings. They also get to know the other adults in the child’s life including their parents, family, foster parents, caseworkers, and counselors, and work with them to ensure the best interests of the child come first.
Ultimately, true normalcy is achieved when children are no longer in the system and have the resources and support they need to thrive — preferably back home with their family whenever safe and possible. Until then, they need a voice to speak up for them, to ensure they are able to participate in hobbies and activities that will help them grow and heal.
Become a CASA volunteer and advocate for a child who needs you. Take advantage of CASA for Children’s next training beginning in August. For more information or to learn how to get involved, visit www.casaok.org or call Jenny Crosby, (918) 686-8199.