Why Now?

“Every one of our children deserves a problem-solver like you.”

At ProKids, our passionate staff and dedicated CASA Volunteers – Court Appointed Special Advocates – navigate in a world that’s always been complicated and unpredictable. This work, of advocating directly for abused and neglected children who are often in foster care, has never been more important than at this time where so many of the traditional support systems have been reduced, removed or eliminated because of our public health crisis.

Trauma casts a long shadow in a child’s life. That’s why we will need our entire community to join us at ProKids as we mobilize to face the months and years ahead.

From the moment our community entered this crisis, our ProKids volunteers and staff were prepared to continue to advocate for the children they serve. They made sure these children were safe, that their foster parents and kinship care providers had what they needed and that they had medical care and school services. While maintaining social distancing and being creative, our volunteers kept their ties to these kids. Along with others in the child protection system, our staff members kept the legal wheels turning.

That was great for the children already in our orbit. In 2019, we served 1,009 thanks to a record-setting more than 300 volunteers. An incredible 99% of the children we serve are free from abuse and neglect. But we are looking around the corner and seeing what’s ahead. While all of this is unprecedented, it’s clear that it’s going to take more of us to ensure that our children are safe, secure and move as quickly as possible to permanent homes where they can thrive.

Not doing so will have ramifications that last generations. When children do not have stability as they grow up, they are more likely to suffer chronic health conditions, become mentally ill, be homeless and unemployed as adults and have other outcomes which mean the next generation can be part of the same cycle.

This is where you come in. Being a part of ProKids means that you are someone who cares about our community’s future. It means that you have an open heart and an open mind. And it means that you want to solve problems – by giving about 10 hours of your time a month – before those problems become unsolvable.

Our volunteers are from all walks of life, and, thanks to our training and ongoing support, they are making a meaningful difference. You can too.

Attend one of our introductory sessions and bring your questions. That’s what makes our volunteers so amazing: they never stop looking for answers. And every one of our children deserves a problem-solver like you.

— Tracy Cook, Executive Director of ProKids

A version of this article appeared in the April 30, 2020, edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer

Ohio’s Leaders Through Crisis Show Concern for Foster Care Kids

Tracy Cook, ProKids executive director, takes comfort in the fact that both of Ohio’s leaders through the novel coronavirus pandemic understand child protection issues. “They’ve shown that they care about our children’s experiences and that they will not forget the most vulnerable of our state’s citizens as we move forward,” Cook said.

Governor Mike DeWine has cited during his COVID-19 briefings his concerns about domestic violence and child abuse during this time. This is not surprising, given his long-running focus on these issues, including his panel’s January visit to Cincinnati seeking input about kids in the child protection system.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, who joins DeWine for the briefings, has a personal interest in these issues; according to news reports, she had a turbulent childhood.

Acton lived in 18 different places as she was growing up, was homeless for a time and experienced abuse from one of her mother’s boyfriends. She has a deep understanding of abuse and neglect.

But she also knows what a powerful difference it can make when one adult steps up and creates a new path for a child.

As she once told the editor of the Youngstown Vindicator: “I spent so much time being scared as a kid, but also navigating the adult world…” But she counts herself lucky that the abuse and neglect “got bad enough that …it got me out of there.”

Cook said Acton’s ability to transcend her trauma shows how personal resilience can result in a powerful ability to navigate and overcome all sorts of difficult circumstances and to compassionately lead others.