Help a child, become a CASA volunteer
May 15, 2012 — Is there anything more important than a child? Human nature tells us to protect them at all costs, yet they are often mistreated. Nobody longs for a safe and loving family more than a child.
The goal of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children is to be a voice for abused and neglected children in foster care and ensure their needs do not go unheard.
If you’ve ever been curious about what it takes to become a CASA volunteer, you have a chance to get all your questions answered at a CASA volunteer informational meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 17 at 1306 Riverside Dr., Susanville.
AmeriCorp representative and CASA recruiter and volunteer, Michelle Noonberg, says CASA volunteers are the eyes and ears for a child who might not otherwise be seen or heard.
She was just appointed as an advocate herself and said she is very much looking forward to meeting the child she will represent.
A CASA volunteer is empowered by the local courts to fight for and protect a foster child’s fundamental right to be treated with dignity and respect.
Because many foster children move from one home to another, their advocate is often the one consistent adult in their life. Noonberg says that consistency can make all the difference for the child.
CASA volunteers represent the child until the case is closed, which is usually about 18 months, said Noonberg.
When the child is placed in a safe, permanent home, the advocate often stays in contact with the child because they have developed a close relationship.
Each year, more than 700,000 children experience foster care in the United States, and currently there is a serious shortage of advocates.
Independent research has demonstrated children with a CASA volunteer are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care and less likely to reenter care.
Advocates not only bring positive change to the lives of vulnerable children, they also enrich their own lives as well.
“The ultimate goal of our local CASA is to reunite the children with their family,” Noonberg said. “We provide total care for the child until that happens.”
CASA volunteers are everyday citizens who have undergone screening and training in the local CASA program. Requirements are basic: you must care about children, have common sense, be 21 years or older, pass a background check and complete a 30-hour training course.
Judges appoint CASA volunteers to represent the best interests of children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.
Once accepted into the program, advocates receive all necessary training in courtroom procedures, social services, the juvenile justice system and the special needs of abused and neglected children.
Volunteers are supported every step of the way.
They will have opportunities for continuing education and access to online resources provided by National CASA, including a resource library, national Facebook community and national conference.
According to Noonberg, advocates meet with the child twice a month for a couple of hours.
They get to know the child by talking with everyone in that child's life — parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others.
They use the information they gather to inform judges and others of what the child needs. On average, volunteers can expect to spend approximately 10 hours a month on a case.
For more information about CASA and to RSVP for the informational meeting, contact Michelle or Tracy at 257-4599 or stop by 1306 Riverside Drive.
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