After 20 years of serving children and youth, Advocates for Children continues to provide CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) training to offer a voice and help for area children in foster care… but volunteers are needed.
“Both Bartow and Gordon counties are joining together to train volunteers who want to ensure that children in foster care will be assigned someone qualified to monitor cases and give input on behalf of the children,” according to Rachel Castillo, Pres. of Advocates for Children.
The Cartersville-based program has been providing children in Bartow and Gordon counties with services through their Runaway and Homeless Youth Program, Safe Place and Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter. In 2019 Advocates added the RISE program to serve homeless youth ages 18-24.
“Being a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is not only a rewarding experience but also life-changing for children who need a caring adult to intervene on their behalf,” she continued. “Our CASA volunteers have been trained in our widely-recognized program and provide an important source of support for children in foster care. CASA volunteers are a vital part of the process in moving these children to a safe and permanent home.”
Beginning Sept. 14 at NorthPointe Church in Adairsville, CASA will offer a free 8-week training opportunity for anyone seeking to become a CASA Volunteer. The sessions even provide food, meeting from 5:30-8:30 p.m. once a week. The training sessions prepare new volunteers to assess a child’s situation by talking to individuals closely connected to the child, then making recommendations in the child’s best interest to the court. CASAs are vital to the outcome of children in foster care, according to Castillo.
The number of children in need of support is rising. Castillo says about 60% of children going into foster care are victims of drug and alcohol abuse, a heartbreaking statistic. An astounding 676,000 children are confirmed victims of abuse or neglect across America, a statistic highlighting the desperate need for adults who want to help.
“We need CASA volunteers with strong communication skills, compassion for children and ability to be objective,” said Northwest Georgia CASA Program Manager Scott Sherwin. 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,” Sherwin 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. “The relationship is valuable in so many ways.”
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 with Advocates for Children 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.
While the training will equip volunteers to help transform the lives of children who need trusted adults, it also enhances the person volunteering, Sherwin explained. “Helping an at-risk child is life-changing for the child, but it’s also life-changing for the volunteer. We can’t put into words the impact this volunteer program is making.”
For details on the training program, call Scott Sherwin at 770-386-1060, ext. 241 or email email@example.com.