“Helping an abused or neglected child can be one of the most rewarding forms of volunteerism,” according to Advocacy for Children President Rachel Castillo. “Our Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) provide a source of support for children in foster care and are a vital part of the process to move these children to a safe and permanent home.”
Beginning February 18, a series of training sessions will prepare new volunteers to assess a child’s situation by talking to anyone who knows the child and reporting recommendations in the best interest of the child to a judge. CASAs are vital to the outcome of children in the foster care system, according to Castillo.
On any given day in Georgia, more than 15,540children are in the foster care system, each of them needing an advocate. Andy the numbers are rising.
In Bartow, the caseload is growing so “we are looking for people with strong communication skills, compassion for children and ability to be objective,” she said. Typically, Dept. of Family and Children’s Services caseworkers have such an extensive caseload that their time with each child is limited. CASA volunteers can invest time in observing, interviewing and researching what and who will best serve the children.
“CASA volunteers are the support and the voice for the children we serve,” Castillo explained. Abused or neglected children can have multiple DFCS case managers and even multiple foster family placements. The one constant and stable presence in their lives is their CASA volunteers. “It’s a priceless relationship.”
The qualifications are simple. In addition to deep compassion for children, volunteers must be 21 or older and undergo a background check. In addition, a 40-hour training program prepares prospects for a wide array of situations and guides them in managing the process.
Each day, Georgia has an average of 33 confirmed cases of child abuse. That devastating figure is indicative of a broad spectrum problem that stems from drug and alcohol abuse, anger, a family history of abuse and other issues. CASA volunteers can help children navigate the foster system in an effort to find safe and stable homes.
In Bartow County alone, 226 children were in the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) at the end of 2019. Sixty percent of those were drug addiction-related, a shocking statistic that underlines the serious need to help these children, according to Castillo.
The training will equip volunteers to help transform the lives of children who need trusted adults. “Becoming a volunteer will definitely change the life of a child,” Castillo said, “but it also changes the life of the volunteer. It’s a wonderful way to enhance your purpose in life.”
For details on the training program, call Ava Lipscomb at 770-386-1060 or email email@example.com.