Wouldn’t you love to spend it in a meaningful and important way—and enrich your life at the same time? Valentine’s Day is the celebration of love, and love is often a large part of what being a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is all about. Every day in this country, 1,900 children are the victims of neglect or abuse. Four of them will die. Together, we can work to change these staggering statistics.
238,000 children are fortunate enough to be heard. They have a CASA volunteer – an Advocate – at their side. But 400,000 others are alone in a bewildering new world, struggling to “speak up” in a sometimes-overburdened system. Some of them are too young to articulate their feelings and needs. Young children in foster care suffer the same grief, doubt and even fear that troubles older children. You can be their voice and advocate their cause when, in some cases, there is no one else to hold that small hand.
All these children want—and deserve—is a secure, safe and loving home. This is our goal and the road map with which every Advocate approaches each individual situation. You can give hope to a child, be the rock to which that lost, and perhaps, lonely little person clings. In many instances, the CASA Advocate is the only stable influence in this child’s or sibling group’s life. Having already been subjected to abuse or neglect, these children need a friend they can count on – someone who will stand at their side during the most difficult time of their lives.
As a volunteer, you will get to know the child and spend one-on-one time with him or her. Imagine a smile brightening a young face when you enter the room and knowing that the time you spend with this child is appreciated and very wothwhile. An Advocate paints a picture of the child’s life by talking to parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and numerous others. This composite then ensures that the child’s needs are met and indicates the best fit for a permanent home. CASA Advocates interact with the court on the child’s behalf, protecting his or her rights and best interests.
You won’t walk into this important role blindly or travel alone down this path. There are professionals to support you, and volunteers are thoroughly trained. You will have to pass a background check, participate in a 30-hour training course and agree to remain with your case until its conclusion, usually about 1 year. You must be 21 to volunteer. If you are wondering how much time is involved, the average is about 10 hours per month…not much to be a positive influence in a life, save the taxpayer money and assure a child a brighter future.
It isn’t necessary to be an attorney or social worker. Our volunteers come from all walks of life. They’re simply people who care about children. We are in particular need of more male Advocates. Some children have been abused by men and need reassurance and a good role model. Also, we want a more diverse representation of volunteers to join us in our fight for children, who, through no fault of their own, have been hurt and are now among strangers. In 2013, 14% of the children served with a CASA Advocate were Hispanic and 6% were African American, while only 6% of our volunteers were Hispanic and a mere 3 % were African American. You can help “be the change”.
When you become an Advocate, you have the power not only to influence a child’s life but the future. Generations to come will benefit from the fact that you cared and guided a youngster away from pain toward success. Isn’t it time to make a difference in someone’s life?
Valentine’s Day equals love. Share your love with a child in need. The rewards are beyond value…as is the love you’ll receive in return. Volunteer today.