The number of children being taken into Child Protective Services’ custody continues to escalate each year in Arizona, but the minors are not the only concern. After age 18, college-bound individuals who were essentially raised in the system still need the support — like any young adult — to have a successful future.
In the United States between 2005-2006, there were 36,000 reports of child abuse, neglect or abandonment that have been documented and the amount is only rising. A single caseworker can be given as many as 19 cases per month. Group homes are becoming overcrowded. So what happens to those who age out of the system?
At Arizona State University, students created Camp H.O.P.E., Helping Orphans Prosper through Education, to encourage orphans in Mexico to attend college.
Camp H.O.P.E. has mostly minors, but does not turn away 18 year olds. Christopher Castorena, 19, was admitted into CPS at age 10. Case workers are assigned to each child to determine whether their parents’ home is safe enough or if they should be removed from that environment. When Castorena turned 18, he chose to stay as he knew it would open up better opportunities for him in what is called the “transitional” program.
Nicole “Nicki” Tassielli was assigned Castorena’s “Transitional Facilitator,” or TF as they are popularly named. She provided guidance to his next steps in life as she encouraged him to go to college, like ASU students do in the Camp H.O.P.E. organization. Having a TF is an option to those who have been in CPS for a long period of time.
“I chose to go the transitional route because Nicki said it would help me with school. FAFSA would provide the grants to pay for it,” Castorena said. He is currently enrolled in Mesa Community College. The program aids him in buying textbooks, paying rent, and more as long as he demonstrates a good academic standing.
Group member Rini Parekh has only participated in one summer so far, but says it seems to promote a positive outlook. Though, it is still being perfected.
“There’s just a huge language barrier because the kids speak Spanish, so next summer members are being encouraged to brush up on their Spanish,” Parekh said.
Though the transitional program seems helpful, Castorena feels there is still improvements that needs to be made in CPS, like Camp H.O.P.E., because his experience as a child was not the best.
“It is too easy to admit children into the system, so there’s so many,” Castorena said. “Also, I think there should definitely be a stricter criteria in employing case workers because it’s a bigger deal than just clocking in and out — you could change people’s families forever.”
• Sarah Stecko is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.