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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, July 24, 2024


I was having a conversation with my 4-year-old son the other day. Our talk evolved from a trip he and I had made with my sister to the Humane Society of St. Thomas to deliver a puppy (my son named him Spot) for adoption. Spot was one of three dogs (along with Chloe and Blade) owned by my sister.
As we drove away from the shelter, my son said, "Mommy why did we leave Spot there?" I glanced back in the rear-view mirror and noticed he was sucking his thumb and looking out the window. I replied so that another family who wants a dog can adopt him and take him home to live with them. "Mommy, what will happen tonight when Spot misses Chloe and Blade?" I said his new family is going to make him so happy that he won't miss Chloe and Blade. He said, "Oh."
My sister and I looked at each other and smiled. After that conversation, I thought of the many kids in the Virgin Islands who are forced to live through situations similar to Spot's. I wondered how many of them go to homes with families who make them happy enough to forget about the pain they left behind. As a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer for abused and neglected children, I give of my time to help to ensure that all children have a safe permanent place to live.
Our children need to know that someone cares for them at all times. The words "home" and "family" should stir up a warm, fuzzy feeling in every child — so much so that when they hear these words they feel a sense of safety, security and love. This is not the case for children who are displaced through no fault of their own. That is why I became an advocate.
The following poem was written by a bright, sensitive teen-ager who has spent the past five years living in foster care on St. Croix.
Innocent Children
Innocent Children getting raped each day,
Innocent Children getting abused and neglected in so many ways.
Innocent Children being abandoned by those who are supposed to care,
Innocent Children trying to survive from the way they are living,
Innocent Children growing up the wrong way,
Innocent Children paying for what they haven't done.
It costs us, the Innocent ones, pain, sorrow, and stress
As well as to do the things the way they're not supposed to be done
Forcing us down roads we know we should not take.
Innocent Children, Innocent Children, it is always the Innocent Children.
Why Innocent Children?
Why not those that do it?
Foster children have done nothing wrong and yet they often feel this way — punished. Punished for the "sins" of their parent who has been unable or unwilling to care for them and punished by a foster care system that is overwhelmed and underfunded and too often not meeting their needs.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month. We are all responsible for the children in our community. An African proverb states that "It takes a village to raise a child." Will you consider doing your part in our village? Court Appointed Special Advocates are assigned by the courts to speak up for children in abuse and neglect cases. To learn how you can help, call CASA at 773-2626.

Editor's note: Bernice Kight is director of the Prosser ICC Foundation and a CASA volunteer. CASA is a not-for-profit organization that trains community volunteers to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court with a goal of finding safe and loving permanent homes for these youngsters.
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