On April 27, 2019 roughly 45 ELGA associates met at the Flint Farmers’ Market in varying degrees of costumes, from my own Marvel hero pajama pants all the way to Kathy Beard’s full Wonder Woman costume, along with other DC favorites Batgirl, Batman, Superman, Super Girl and The Flash were all in attendance. The opening weekend of Avengers: Endgame could not stop Marvel heroes, including Captain Marvel, Captain America, and Thor, from coming out. Even Doug’s own Quailman was spotted in attendance!

While the event was peppered with famous Superheroes, one literally could not turn around without seeing the real-life, everyday heroes: police officers, firefighters, social workers, foster parents, adoptive parents, CASAs, and overall supporters of child welfare. We were all gathered for one cause – to support abused and neglected children in Flint and Genesee County.

Child abuse and neglect cases are much more complicated than people of any age tend to realize. Whether a case involves obvious, severe physical abuse that leaves behind visible bruises and broken bones, or more subtle emotional abuse and neglect, it is never as simple as Child Protective Services showing up, removing the child, and then all is suddenly and magically well. Social workers do not like to remove children from their biological parents, and whenever possible will try to help the entire family improve their situation before taking this last resort course of action. Regardless of the severity, there is likely to be long-lasting trauma.

An abused child may have trust issues and be unwilling to speak with the police, the doctors, the psychiatrist, or the courts; they may have even been told by their parents that these people are not safe and “If you love Daddy, you won’t talk to them.” The emotions for abuse survivors are strong and confusing, especially for a young child who is still working on identifying more than the basic happy/sad/angry emotions. Emotionally healthy adults can barely comprehend the tangle of emotions that come with being hurt by somebody they love; imagine a five-year-old being asked to tell a police officer or a social worker something that might put Mommy in jail.

The complexities in helping a child in an abusive or negligent situation are vast and extreme. That’s where CASA come in. Court-Appointed Special Advocates work closely with children to develop a relationship in which they feel safe and comfortable discussing what’s going on at home. CASA try to help limit a child’s exposure to the potentially traumatizing experience of court. In short, a CASA advocates for a child and lets the child know that there is somebody who cares about them as a person and helps guarantee their needs are met. It’s a difficult “job” – the quotation marks are there because CASAs are volunteers; they receive no monetary compensation for all of their work and effort.  They are truly real-life superheroes.

Defeating Thanos is nothing compared to what CASA voluntarily do. That’s why so many people gathered downtown on this chilly Saturday morning – to raise funds and awareness for Flint’s own Voices for Children Advocacy Center. Participants pay a fee to run or walk, and then give their time to this cause. The Advocacy Center gets funds raised, but they also see an overwhelming amount of support from the community. Avengers: Infinity War featured somewhere between 63 and 76 superheroes, but 521 people ran or walked on April 27. And while we may not have super powers, every one of you who participated will be a hero to children in need.

Author – Jenni Zintel, Teller

ELGA Burton Branch

Learn more about Voices for Children here.

Learn more about the Flint Superhero Run here.

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