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Last week I had the pleasure of meeting another CASA volunteer on our campus in Ruston. CASA volunteers are Court-Appointed Special Advocates for children.
This CASA volunteer had driven up from south Louisiana to visit one of the children for whom she advocates. As we chatted, I could tell she is passionate about what she does and she is extremely committed to doing good things for children who need a person on their side. I was not surprised. CASA volunteers tend to be remarkable people who care greatly about the needs of children.
In our ministry to meet the diverse needs of Louisiana’s children and families, we welcome partnerships and encourage the work of others who provide care for abused or neglected children. I can’t speak highly enough about the significant work CASA volunteers do for children.
CASA volunteers help secure safe and permanent homes for abused and neglected children by investigating and monitoring cases involving children in foster care. CASA volunteers, after receiving special training and supervision, are appointed by a Judge to represent the best interests of children in court.
The role of a CASA volunteer is to provide the court with carefully researched information about a child to help the court make a sound decision about the child’s future. Judges rely on CASA volunteers for guidance in determining whether a child is better placed with parents, guardians, foster care, or being freed for adoption. CASA volunteers make recommendations to judges based upon the best information they have available.
CASA volunteers carefully prepare their recommendations for judges. They do this after talking with a child, the family, guardians, social workers, school officials, health care providers and others involved in the child’s life. On behalf of the child and the judge, a CASA volunteer researches all records pertaining to the child and his or her care, including educational records, medical records, mental health records and other reports.
Court rooms can be frightening places for innocent children. As a child’s advocate, a CASA volunteer explains to the child the legal procedures, the roles of the judge, lawyers and case workers. The CASA volunteer encourages the child to express his or her opinion and hopes about the case and care he or she receives. Children who have a CASA volunteer advocating for them tend to spend less time in court and less time in the foster care system.
In other words, CASA volunteers do BIG work for children and catch it – they are VOLUNTEERS!
According to Dr. John Wyble, Executive Director of Louisiana’s CASA Program,
“Louisiana CASA believes in the strength that nonprofit partnerships bring to Louisiana’s children and families. As Louisiana continues to rank at 49th in the nation in the quality of life we provide for our children, it is imperative that citizens, nonprofit agencies, business and industry, and other stakeholders work collaboratively to improve outcomes. We cannot rely on business models of the past but rather must focus on the opportunities that come with shifting how we view community programs and services.
Louisiana CASA currently has formal partnerships with Children’s Advocacy Centers of Louisiana and Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana. These three agencies are currently exploring opportunities to get more of Louisiana’s citizens active in efforts to counter child abuse and neglect in our state. Individuals, not institutions, will rebuild hope for children and families devastated by the ills of abuse and/or neglect; and these organizations will collectively seek venues to educate individual citizens on how they can make a real difference for children.
Our mission partners are key stakeholders who have partnered with us in a variety of ways from grant funding to shared memberships on statewide work groups in an effort to better serve the communities of Louisiana.”
I am convinced children in out-of-home care benefit greatly when they have a CASA volunteer on their side.
If you have time and heart, consider becoming a CASA volunteer. If you know a CASA volunteer, tell them from your heart, “Thank You!”
You can learn more about CASA at http://www.louisianacasa.org