GIVING CHILDREN A VOICE
| In 2006, when the Franklin County CASA began, there were 150 children in foster care in Franklin County; in 2013 over 300 children lived in foster homes or residential care facilities due to parental abuse or neglect. Fortunately for those children, there are now 55 CASAs in Franklin County to give these children a voice in the court and foster care system. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. CASAs are trained volunteers who are assigned to one child or family of siblings at a time. They spend time with the child(ren) on a regular basis and get to know them-what they wish for, how they feel about their placement and their parents, how things are going at school, etc. CASAs also meet with others involved in the child's case, such as their foster parents, teachers, caseworkers, biological parents, even therapists. The more information the CASA volunteer can gather, the better, because it helps them represent the child in court. The information is written in a fact-based, comprehensive report that is sent to the judge who then uses the information to determine the best placement for the child currently and in the future.|
We had a child who was in a residential facility and the CASA volunteer would go there routinely, at least once a month, to meet with the child, and in speaking with the staff, realized that they were the child's only visitor each month. That CASA decided to start calling so he would have more than just one visit a month. To think about a 12-year-old that is in a hospital dormitory setting, it just breaks my heart. So when you have a CASA volunteer that chooses to come and see them, it's a million dollars to that kiddo.
When we asked a CASA volunteer why they love being a CASA she replied, "I love being a CASA because being a part of a child's life and making a difference has made a difference in my life."
~Glenda Volmert, Executive Director CASA volunteers receive 30 hours of training before being assigned to a child. They learn about the court system, how to write fact-based court reports that a judge will respect, skills for interacting and connecting with the child, and common situations they are likely to encounter. Once training is completed, each volunteer is assigned to one child or family and will stay with that child(ren) until a permanent placement is determined by the court. It is always the hope of the court for children to be reunited with their biological parents, but whether they go "home" or go to a permanent home somewhere else, their CASA remains their friend and helps them adjust to whatever circumstances they must. CASA volunteers often stay in touch with the child even after permanent placement because of the friendships they've developed.
The families and children are often able to develop deep friendships and relationships of trust with the CASA because they are not part of the court system that removed the child from their home. They are there because they choose to be, not because they are getting paid. They have a heart for hurting children and they want to be a strong voice advocating for the good of those children.