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Become a court-appointed special advocate

 

By Cindy Maldonado

Court-appointed special advocates (CASAs) are volunteers advocating for children and youth who have been victims of abuse and neglect in their homes because their parents are unwilling or unable to care for them. Through no fault of their own, these children become dependents of the Child Welfare System.

Imagine that you’ve been removed from your parents’ custody — not because of something you’ve done, but because of something terrible — an alcoholic mother who can’t put food on the table for a couple of days, or a father whose threats have turned into punching. You are now involved in an intimidating court system full of strange people. There is no one to give you the love, support, and direction you need, and you feel very lonely and scared. You no longer have the support of an adult to help you navigate and overcome life’s challenges.

If you are like many children in this situation, you probably give up. You are very likely to get in trouble for the lack of a consistent adult presence in your life.

This is where CASAs come in. A CASA volunteer is a member of the community who spends time with children, monitors needed services, and provides child-focused recommendations to the court based on a child’s best interests. The juvenile court and its judges make very important decisions with the help of different professionals who work with children in the system, including CASA volunteers. The CASA volunteer serves as the “eyes and ears” of the judge and supports the juvenile court in making the best recommendations to improve the children’s lives. In this way, volunteers ensure children do not get lost in the overloaded legal system or end up being placed in inappropriate foster homes.

Hundreds of child and youth cases are filed in juvenile court each year, and currently 93 children and youth are waiting for a CASA volunteer to speak up for them in the courtroom, classroom, and community. CASA is appealing to Sonoma County residents to volunteer.

If you think you can commit two hours a week to provide advocacy, friendship, and emotional support to a child or youth in foster care, volunteer! Being a CASA can be very gratifying. A CASA is a powerful voice in a child’s life.

Fall CASA volunteer training is scheduled the last two weeks of October, and it will be a hybrid model. For more specific dates/times and more information, or to sign up for the CASA training, contact Heloisa Heinen at (707) 565-6375, or write to [email protected]

To find out more about CASA of Sonoma County, visit sonomacasa.org or call (707) 565-6375.

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