Message from the Executive Director (February 2024)

“Reports of child abuse and neglect in Pennsylvania are rising after dropping during the pandemic, data shows.” Saturday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette shares the latest report from Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, an advocacy group who analyzed five years of data identifying trends in how families are moved through local child welfare systems. The report shared something that those of us on the ground have witnessed firsthand: children are at risk and public systems meant to create a social safety net around them are struggling to meet their needs.

The article shared many important data points regarding our child protection system. However, there was one statistic that was stunning in its enormity: a 471% increase in children re-entering care in Allegheny County from 2021 to 2022. Those are children who were involved and came back because of another allegation of abuse or neglect. The report didn’t state the official reason for such a sharp increase, and local child welfare experts interviewed called on the County to investigate the reasons why.

But what we’ve seen on the front-lines tells a very worrying story. There is a rapidly dwindling number of staff (caseworkers, therapists and educators) to work with children and with less staff, our community’s ability to sustain that precious safety net that keeps kids safe is seriously jeopardized. As Heather Wilkes of Allies for Children shared, “There are lots and lots of services, but if they don’t have the workers to fill those slots, the families aren’t getting the support that they need.”

When there are fewer and fewer caring individuals in children’s lives, then bad things happen to kids. We know this. It is incumbent that we step forward and answer the call to help our community’s children and to answer that call by supporting CASA. We know that our model of CASA advocacy works. Kids who work with a CASA are significantly less likely to re-enter the system once their court case has closed. In Pennsylvania, the re-entry number for all children is 22%; for children with a CASA in Allegheny County, that number drops to less than 5%.

A consistent, present, caring adult can make a huge difference in the life of a child. We are proud of our capacity to serve at-risk children and help them through a very difficult and tumultuous time in their lives. Will you step forward to be a part of the solution?

To learn more about how to help vulnerable and maltreated children, check out our website or email Dennis at dbiggs@pgh-casa.org.

Thank you!

Melisssa Protzek, Esq., head shot

Melissa Protzek, Esq.
Executive Director