CASA of Josephine County Needs Volunteers
First the bad news: Each year in Josephine County, more than 400 children enter the court system due to abuse or neglect. These are our community’s most vulnerable and at-risk children. Struggles with addiction and domestic violence place the children in frightening and unsafe situations.
The good news is that some of these foster children will be assigned a CASA, aka Court Appointed Special Advocate. The sworn duty of these advocates is to ensure abused and neglected children live in safe, permanent and loving homes.
“As a sworn legal party to the foster child’s case, the CASA advocate provides an unduplicated service on a foster child’s behalf,” said Program Director Sanne Specht. “CASAs are the only party in the case whose job is to investigate, facilitate, monitor and advocate solely for the child’s best interest. Judges rely upon the CASA’s reports to make critical and life-changing decisions. No one else provides those reports except CASAs.”
Within 24 hours after removal from a home, a Shelter Hearing will be held to determine a safe placement for the children. Some of these children will be placed with relatives. Many will be placed in community foster care. The shelter hearing is often when a judge will recognize the vulnerability of the situation and will request a CASA volunteer to advocate for the best interest of these children. But, in fact, anyone can request a CASA and they often get requests from Child Welfare workers, family members or other community partners.
“A CASA volunteer becomes the voice for these children’s best interest in court,” Specht said. “They become the one, consistent person who listens, speaks up for them, and stays with them through the court process. They meet with doctors and teachers, making sure medical and special needs are being addressed. Often, the CASA will become the role model for the entire family.”
The CASA is there for the child, working closely with the judge, case workers and attorneys. In various types of difficult situations, in court and in the community, CASA speaks for what is best for the child.
“For many CASA volunteers, they become a part of the child’s life forever,” Specht said. “We are a strong community partner with Child Welfare and other child-serving agencies. We work to ensure children get to those services (as needed) and that those services are consistent and not duplicated—all of which benefits a child but also keeps taxpayer costs down. But with Child Welfare in a crisis, CASA advocates are needed now more than ever. They provide more eyes and ears on children’s safety. In a nutshell, CASA volunteers save lives.”
Specht added that volunteers are constantly needed.
“Josephine County CASA needs more funding, staff and volunteers, as more than 100 foster kids are still waiting for their CASA,” she said. “If you have a heart for children and the desire to make a positive change in their lives, please support CASA. Consider making a donation to our nonprofit organization or give us a call at 541-474-KIDS. Consider attending a CASA orientation and see what it takes to be a member of our amazing team. Our next two-week training class begins in September.”
For more info, go to Jococasa.org or like them on Facebook.