Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” I have an answer to that: become a Volunteer Advocate with CASA Connection. You could really make a difference in the life of a child who has been abused or neglected by their parents or guardians and placed into the foster care system, through no fault of their own.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA Connection, serving Platte and Colfax counties, is the local CASA program. CASA Connection is part of a nationwide program affiliated with the Nebraska CASA Association and the National CASA Association. We need volunteers to donate time and energy for these children. Appointed by family court judges, CASA volunteers typically handle one child’s case or one string of siblings at a time and stay on the case until the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. Other people may come and go in the child’s life, but their CASA volunteer provides a constant presence the child needs to help them move through this difficult and sometimes scary time in their lives. In many cases the CASA volunteer is the only constant figure in these children’s lives during their time in foster care.
Imagine being a foster child at school while your classmates are talking about their upcoming summer vacation plans. They’re talking about trips to places such as an amusement park or camping in the mountains. One of them asks you about your plans-are you going to do anything fun and exciting? You can’t answer that. You don’t know if your foster family goes on trips or if they do will they include you? You’re not even sure if you’ll still be living with them-you might be back home living with your Mom and Dad and your baby sister who lives with another foster family. You do know that John, your CASA, will be coming over to see you. You like sitting out on the porch swing at your foster home talking to him. He tells funny stories of summer Boy Scout camp. You tell him that being a Boy Scout sounds like fun and you might want to join that someday so you could attend summer camp. John explains that he can’t make any promises but he’ll contact the local Boy Scout troop and speak to everyone involved with your case to try to get you into a troop. You’re not sure what will happen this summer but at least, because of John’s listening to you, you have hope of having some fun.
We encourage women AND men from all cultures, professions, ethnic and educational backgrounds to volunteer. Our volunteers come from all walks of life and have one thing in common: they care about children. The requirements to be a volunteer are simple: You must be at least 21 years old, able to pass the background checks, provide references and participate in an interview. No special background or education is required. Our volunteers complete 30 hours of pre-service training provided by the CASA Connection staff, then are sworn in by the juvenile court judge before being assigned a case. Once assigned, they can expect to spend an average of 6-10 hours a month working on the case. Volunteers get to know the child, gathering information, exploring resources to meet the child’s needs and writing reports with recommendations. They receive ongoing education and support from their local program as well as from the State and National CASA Associations.
When we asked our volunteers why they volunteer with CASA Connection, Renee replied, “When I went through Leadership Columbus, the mission and purpose of CASA left a mark on me. To learn about children in the court system due to neglect or abuse and caused me to wonder if I would be able to help these children. After much thought, I reached out to the CASA director to learn more about this program. After learning more about ways that CASA volunteers have helped the children I decided to "sign up"! My time volunteering has helped me to realize the hurdles that children go through once they are found to be neglected or abused. These children need someone to be "in their corner" and someone that truly cares about their current well-being and future. I am glad to say ‘I am a CASA volunteer!’”
To learn more about how YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE in the life of an abused or neglected child, contact Susie or Lisa at CASA Connection at (402)563-4944 or email email@example.com. We’ll be starting our next New Volunteer Training class soon and would love to have you in it.
Lisa Rosendahl is the Outreach Coordinator for CASA Connection.