Many workers think of first-responders as bloodhounds, because they help people, but the real heroes are child welfare workers.
We know the importance of working together with law enforcement to battle abuse and neglect cases. But what about the young people who become adults after the abuse is exposed to stay away from a traumatic past?
The answer, so far, is, “nothing much.”
For a lack of funding and training programs, a lot of foster care children who were abused as children are still dealing with emotional issues that stem from their childhoods.
This does not help those who are in the middle of homelessness and are left searching for work and options.
This is where youth providers join the ranks of volunteer first responders, like the CSI program that supports young people.
I know the importance of being prepared in crisis because I worked with a teenage girl who was traveling across the country, with all her things packed in the back of a car. She had gone to Mississippi as part of a trip to help incarcerated young people, and she wanted to end up in a facility, but they weren’t taking any more kids. She had nowhere to go.
With help from Volunteer First Responder training, I coordinated her transfer to a treatment center in Central Arkansas. I was there to give her some support, ensure she was safe, and support her when she would start the program there.
I look back on that time of my life and realize how lucky I was to be given the tools I had, to reach out and help in a situation like that.
Thankfully, I was lucky enough to access a valuable training program and resources. I can help a teenager get access to treatment, and establish a stable environment for her, but there are so many others who are not so lucky.
This is the reality of the lack of resources for youth care and services, and the lack of volunteers. There are many regions of the country that suffer a lack of workers needed to serve children and youth who need services, and it is a challenge.
Volunteer First Responder programs have offered more than 1,500 youth-outreach programs. States such as Colorado and New York have already passed similar legislation or legislation is underway to make this process more accessible to volunteers.
The ideas and tools offered by these programs have already proven to be beneficial to the young people they serve.
From fighting deadly drug use to helping to feed infants, volunteers are the first responders that keep children and families in our community safe and helping them realize the promise of a better life.
We need all our first responders to help us fight the addiction epidemic, and to help the youth in our community who need it.
At the end of the day, we all know that volunteerism, instead of government-funded programs, will move us in the right direction.
Carly Coren is the manager of CSI Training and Visiting with Street Youth at Kids in Distress.