For children in foster care, the ability to form lasting connections with other people is often a challenge. Children who have been neglected and/or abused undergo profound stress that affects their developing view of the world. For the children served by CASA volunteers, the world may represent nothing but chaos and danger, such that they must remain always on guard and ready to respond to threat. Although such hypervigilance and preparedness for battle enabled survival when needed, it tends to become a hindrance in environments where threat is only perceived and acts as a barrier to connecting with others. For any adult to parent any child, the child must trust that adult to be able to protect and take control when necessary. The child who has not been nurtured learns to survive on his/her own and often believes that adults exist just to make survival more difficult.
The nature of the foster care system often reinforces that the world contains nothing but threat and that everyone must fight to survive from one minute to the next. Regardless of the conditions children are removed from, they typically enter foster care with fear and are primed to react accordingly. Thus, every new face encountered poses risk and every adult is plotting some form of harm. For everyone involved with that chronically terrified child, there is the task of building trust. For the foster child whose placement is changing frequently, there are few consistent people in whom to develop trust.
Learning to trust others is fundamental to survival in our society. The CASA volunteer frequently becomes the most consistent person in that child’s life and thus, the person able to foster trust.