14 Aug Member Spotlight – CASA
Do you want to make a lasting impact in an abused or neglected child’s life? Maybe you have what it takes to be a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer. At the Chamber Connection hosted by CASA at the Chamber office August 10th, executive director Leslie Guinn shared that CASA volunteers advocate to ensure that children are safe and can thrive.
Volunteers visit with biological and foster parents, work with legal and child welfare professionals, educators and service providers to ensure that judges have all the information they need to make the most well-informed decisions for each child.
“Think of someone in your life that you can always count on if you need them,” Leslie posed to the group. “Someone you could call on any time, for anything. That’s what a CASA does. A lot of kids that come into foster care don’t have that. They get a new home, sometimes new schools. They get a social worker; they start a new doctor; they see a new therapist; they have new friends — everything from their world has been completely ripped from them. So, we ask CASAs to be that ONE person for them. That person to be able to be their voice, to advocate for them in court and get their needs met.”
CASA volunteers receive more than 30 hours of training before being appointed by a judge to advocate for a child’s best interest. Leslie said that some CASA organizations provide training at only certain times during the year, but she provides it whenever a new volunteer is ready to make the commitment. Once a volunteer is trained and assigned to a child, they stay with that case until it is closed, and the child is in a safe, permanent home. The goal, said Leslie, is always reunification with the biological parents, but when that isn’t possible, adoption.
Harvey and McPherson County currently share only 17 volunteers yet had about 100 new cases last year. Volunteers are assigned to only one or two cases at a time so many children are going through the system without advocates. Referrals in McPherson County have gone up significantly in recent years, she said, surpassing Harvey County, and those numbers typically go up even more once school starts.
There are other ways to get involved with CASA if you’re not able to take on the responsibilities of a volunteer right now. You could join a Citizen Review Board (CRB) that meets every two months to review harder cases or cases that are at a standstill. It requires 12 hours of training and a 2-year commitment. Or you can make a donation to support the work CASA does.