Advocates for Children to Offer Training for Education Advocates
In its efforts to prevent and treat child abuse in all its forms, Advocates for Children provides community services for children, including those currently in the foster care system. One such program under the umbrella of Advocates for Children offers children who are abused or neglected a voice in the court system. The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer assesses the child’s situation and reports to the judge what is in the best interest of the child with a goal of a safe, permanent home for each child.
It is estimated that the average child in foster care is likely to change placements two to three times a year, according to officials with the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association. With those moves come burdens on the child to adjust to new surroundings, people, and sometimes multiple schools. CASA volunteers are often the only constant adult presence in the child’s life.
“Some of the things we see when assessing the child’s situation are incomplete education records; lack of proper assessment of a child’s educational needs and resources; overlooked absenteeism, tardiness and truancy,” explained Advocates for Children CASA Director Ava Lipscomb. “Each time there is a move from home to home children can lose months of educational progress.”
Working with Georgia CASA, Bartow CASA is piloting a program in this county to offer additional training to a few of their current CASA volunteers to become Education Advocates.
CASA volunteers must complete 40 hours of training, extensive background checks, and ongoing in-service training each year. CASA volunteers are everyday people from the community who care about and work with children in foster care. A CASA is paired with a child or sibling group and visits with them a minimum of once per month. The CASA makes recommendations to the court for what is in the child’s best interest.
To become an Education Advocate, a CASA must undergo additional training and accept additional responsibilities for the child to whom they are appointed regarding the child’s educational needs. Education Advocate training will continue to be offered every few months.
“In addition to children having another supportive adult in their lives who is focused on their education, this type of advocacy helps the professionals involved in the case,” said Lipscomb. “An important key to a better life is education. Through focused efforts and community collaborations, we can make great strides toward giving abused and neglected children more opportunities and a great foundation for the future.”