VOICES for CASA gives foster children the chance to be heard
For a child who has been pulled out of their home and placed into foster care, the world can be an understandably uncertain place. But while the state and relatives battle it out in court, there is a third group of dedicated volunteers who take the time to listen to the kids and help make sure their voices don’t get lost in the chaos.
These Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) get to know the children first, both through regular visits and by talking with people important in their lives in an effort to be able to make informed recommendations for the short and long-term needs of the child.
“We feel like CASA’s bringing hope to the children,” explains VOICES for CASA Children Executive Director Robin Pearson. “Your job is to help the child navigate through the system, so there is definitely some mentoring going on, but it also gives them someone who listens to them and really cares for them.”
Through being one constant in a foster child’s inconsistent world, CASA volunteers advocate for the child by helping to push their cases along and ensuring that they are receiving proper services for their needs and environment. Once assigned to a case, the individual CASA will be there to see that case through to its conclusion, and until the child is placed in a permanent home. Through it all, they are there to listen and help the child not get overwhelmed by the process.
“If we can just change one life, then it is worth all of the work we have done,” says Larry, a CASA volunteer. “I think volunteering for CASA is the best thing I have done, because in social services you have direct and indirect services, and this is definitely direct. When I sit in a court room and a judge finds out there is a CASA in attendance, that is pretty much the best feeling ever, because you have a voice and are able to impact that child in a positive way.”
The ultimate goal is for each child to have their own individual Advocate assigned to them, but with more than 13,000 children in the court system, and only about 600 active advocates to go around, VOICES is actively recruiting to help in achieving that goal. No special background or educated is needed, and once accepted into the program, there is a pre-service training of a minimum 30 hours and an average of 15 a month once they have been assigned their first case, including spending time with the child and attending court hearing and meetings.
For more information on VOICES for CASA Children, including volunteer information and application as well as other ways to get involved, please visit their website at VoicesForCASAChildren.org.