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CASA needs more volunteers

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CASA for Children of the Coastal Bend is thrilled to announce that 14 new volunteers will become Court Appointed Special Advocates on December 8th.  After completing 2 weeks of a rigorous volunteer training program, the new members will finally be able to take the CASA Volunteer Oath and take that first step to help make a difference in the lives of children and youth in foster care.

“We now have 14 individuals who will give children in foster care a strong voice and the opportunity to thrive. With the dedication and commitment of these volunteers, we know we can help break the cycle of abuse one family at a time for many generations to come," said CASA Communications Director Diana Booth.

These volunteers will be a voice for foster children in court and will spend time with the children to better assess their needs.

“We need more volunteers.  Our vision is that every child in foster care have a CASA volunteer.  In 2016 we had 1,116 children in foster care and only close to 400 had a CASA volunteer,” said Booth.   

:CASAs are everyday people – teachers, business people, retirees, stay-at-home moms and grandparents – who are committed to making a difference for children who might otherwise slip through the cracks of an overburdened foster care system. 

Advocates research case records and interview each person involved in a child’s life, including family members, teachers, doctors, lawyers and social workers.

They monitor the progress of the child and family and advocate for the child’s current and future needs in court, in school and in agency meetings.

CASA’s independent evaluations allow the court to make better informed decisions. Because advocates serve on 1-2 cases at a time, they truly get to know an individual child or sibling group.

They provide sustained, personal attention to every child.

When a child enters the child welfare system because his or her home is no longer safe due to abuse or neglect, a judge may appoint a committed volunteer to advocate for the best interest of the child in court, at school and in other settings.

That volunteer is called a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA. Advocates stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, loving, permanent home. For many children, who are abused or neglected, their CASA will be the one constant presence in their lives.

Exactly what does a CASA volunteer do?

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court and other settings.

 The primary responsibilities of a CASA volunteer are to:

• Gather information: Review documents and records, interview the children, family members and professionals in their lives.

• Document findings: Provide written reports at court hearings.

• Appear in court: Advocate for the child's best interests and provide testimony when necessary.

• Explain what is going on: Help the child understand the court proceedings.

• "Be the glue": Seek cooperative solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the children's lives. As one volunteer said: “Be the glue that connects the pieces in a complicated child welfare system.”

 • Recommend services: Ensure that the children and their family are receiving appropriate services and advocate for those services. Bring concerns about the child's health, education, mental health, etc. to appropriate professionals.

• Monitor case plans and court orders: Ensure plans are being followed.

• Keep the court informed: Update the court on developments with agencies and family members. Ensure the court knows about any changes in the child's situation.

To qualify, a CASA volunteer must:

·         Be able to commit at least 12 months of their time (average 10-15 hours per month);

·         Be 21 years of age or older;

·         Successfully pass screening, background checks and fingerprint requirements;

·         Successfully complete initial training provided by the CASA of the Coastal Bend program (24 hours of initial classroom training, homework, a police ride along and court observation);

·         Complete 12 hours of continuing education per year;

·         Be able to keep information confidential and work within established program guidelines;

·         Provide three non-relative letters of reference.

Those who are interested in learning more may contact CASA of the Coastal Bend by calling (361) 884-2272 or visiting https://www.coastalbendcasa.org

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