Friday, June 6, 2008

CASA Volunteers - The Voice Of At Risk Children

On any given day more than 100,000 foster children are waiting to be adopted. More than that are hoping for reunification with their families. The foster care case workers are overworked and overloaded with more children than they could ever hope to help.

As a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) you can fill that need and be the voice for a child that is otherwise lost in an unforgiving system of experts, courts and revolving door homes.

The official CASA website is quoted as saying...In 1977, a Seattle judge conceived the idea of using trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. So successful was this program that soon judges across the country began utilizing citizen advocates. In 1990, the US Congress encouraged the expansion of CASA programs with passage of the Victims of Child Abuse Act.

This was one year before I became a foster mother. I remember hearing about the fledgling CASA program in Wyoming, where I lived. My foster daughter did not have a CASA appointed to her. I sometimes wonder if the times she was before a judge if this advocate might have been able to secure more help for her and her family. Maybe she could have gone home to her parents instead of being pushed into possible emancipation and an eventual move cross-country to live with relatives she barely knew.

Today, CASA have grown to a network of more than 59,000 volunteers that serve 243,000 abused and neglected children through 900+ local program offices nationwide. Their advocates, also known as volunteer guardians ad litem in some jurisdictions, are appointed by judges and act as officers of the court. Judges rely on the information these trusted advocates present.

When a CASA is involved the recommended services are most always approved by a judge. A child with a CASA volunteer is more likely to be adopted or reunited with their birth parents when appropriate. CASA children are less likely to reenter the Child Welfare System. CASA's give a voice to a child that has none in a system that is designed not to hear their small pleas.

Recently, on National Public Radio I heard the story of a young girl who'd languished in the Child Welfare System. Her mother, a drug addict, had turned her over the county saying that the 13 year old girl was mentally ill and had attempted suicide. None of it was true, except that the mother wanted to be free of the responsibility of her child.

The young girl stayed in a mental facility for six months with minimal evaluation and no one listening to the truth of her life. Eventually, a CASA was appointed to her and after one meeting with the volunteer she was rushed into court, declared a ward of the state and given a suitable foster home. She will be entering college this fall and the one constant in her life since her abandonment has been the relationship with her CASA. In her words, "She saved my life."

It's not alway that dramatic. CASA's don't have delusions that they can fix the world but they can be there when no one else is. That is VERY important in these children's lives. There are CASA chapters all over the country eagerly looking for volunteers. They train and equip the volunteers with all the knowledge they need to nurture and protect these children while they are in this precarious situation. Maybe you would like to help by becoming a volunteer yourself.

6 comments:

Vienne said...

Hi Lisa, my friend is a CASA and regards it as one of the most important roles in her life. She says she will never abandon her CASA child, no matter where she goes or what becomes of her. I always thought that was very special. She has been involved with CASA for 10 years.

Thanks for joining my "ends" discussion at BC!

Legally Kidnapped said...

Casa workers are not the voice of children. That is a lie. They are just a group of cronies who act as the voice of CPS.

Island Girls said...

Despite the legally kidnapped comment... I just sent an email to our Casa group asking to volunteer locally. Your website is great!

Lisa McGlaun said...

Vienne,

Thanks for starting such an interesting discussion. Glad I could contribute.

I think there are many CASA volunteers who feel that way. I've tossed around the idea of becoming one myself. I think they do great work.

Hugs,
Lisa

Lisa McGlaun said...

Legally Kidnapped,

I looked at your blog site and you are entitled to your opinion. As a former foster mother and an adoptee who's been reunited with my birth mother I can't say that I share your opinions on either subject.

There are abuses in every man made system but in general I believe the people involved are doing the best they can. I know I did and certainly do not resent the circumstances of my adoption.

Best Wishes,
Lisa

Lisa McGlaun said...

Island,

Wow! That is wonderful. I would really appreciate it if you checked back and let me know how the process goes. I'm very interested in it.

Thanks so much,
Lisa