by Sue Brown
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
There is nothing as wonderful as a healthy and well-loved child. Indeed, the children of today become the future of America in a relatively short period of time. If they are healthy, well cared for, and loved then our own future is also one of security and well being. But sadly, this often is not the case. There are so many children who are raised in a negative home environment and are abused or neglected—or sometimes both. It is easier to believe that it happens in other places, certainly not in “our town” or “our county,” but in reality it is everywhere in our country and in staggering numbers too.
Each year almost 800,000 children (teens too) in the United States are part of the court and child welfare system. They are no longer allowed to live in their own home because of nothing they did, but rather because the adults responsible for their care and well-being either couldn’t or won’t take proper care of them. This is where a CASA Volunteer is a valuable asset to the children in this position. As a CASA you are: screened, trained, supervised, and supported as a community volunteer who advocates for the best interest of abused and neglected children.
CASA may very well be the only volunteer organization that empowers everyday citizens as officers of the court. They are appointed by judges to watch over a child until that case is closed and that child is placed in a safe and permanent home. While others may come and go from the lives of these children, a CASA may very well be the one constant in their young lives. They are the ones that make a difference. After the initial 6 week training is over, a volunteer may expect to devote some 10 hours per month to the organization.
Last year alone, almost one quarter of a million abused and neglect children were helped by CASA volunteers. People who volunteer come from all backgrounds. Some have years of education and perhaps a background of working with children and families. While others may have been part of the foster care system or have grown up in a less than healthy and stable home. Therefore, they want the best for a new generation of young people. There are no set requirements for a volunteer other than a strong desire to make a child’s life better.