New CASA training begins in August
Fourteen new CASA’s (Court Appointed Special Advocates) have joined the ranks at Child Advocates of Nevada County. Having completed a thorough screening and a 30-hour training, some have already begun to assist the Nevada County child welfare and court systems by acting as the eyes and ears of the court in support of the most vulnerable children among us — children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect.
Nevada County’s Child Protective Services receives over 1,000 calls a year from people worried about children who might be being abused or neglected. Over 100 of those children end up being removed from their homes, becoming dependents of the court.
Sometimes they are placed in a foster home, and must be moved to another, and another. Sometimes they have to change schools. Sometimes they are separated from siblings. Sometimes they are placed in another county, where no one is familiar, no one is known.
There are many professionals who work with these frightened and wounded children, showing them care and respect. But the caseloads are large and the workers very busy.
A CASA’s job is to focus on one child or sibling group. The CASA spends time listening to the child and learning about what is going on in the family and foster home. They are given authority by the court to examine school and medical records, speak with teachers, doctors, therapists, and other service providers. CASA’s work with social workers and attorneys to gather and share information that ultimately will help the court decide what is best for the child, in the present and in the future.
CASA’s are volunteers, entrusted with a profound responsibility. Not only do they help the court decide where and with whom a child will ultimately live, but they identify resources that will help the child in the here and now. CASA’s find scholarships that enable foster kids to attend summer camp. They help find donations of music lessons, sports equipment, prom dresses, tutoring. They play Frisbee, eat ice cream, take walks, and hang out with kids who have felt forgotten and powerless. CASA’s let kids know they matter, that their voices can and should be heard.
CASA is a national nonprofit organization that trains and supports volunteers – people of varying ages and backgrounds – to advocate for the best interests of children. With a CASA, a child spends an average of 8 fewer months in foster care, and is half as likely to re-enter the child welfare system. Kids with CASA’s are more likely to receive needed services, do better in school, and are more likely to find a secure and safe home.
Child Advocates of Nevada County has 47 active CASA’s, enough to serve about 40 percent of local children in dependency court. But every child who needs a CASA should have one, and Child Advocates’ goal is to serve them all.
For more information about becoming a CASA, call Child Advocates of Nevada County at 530-265-9550, visit http://www.caofnc.org, or email Melinda@caofnc.org. The next training begins with an orientation on Aug. 20 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and a training class Sept. 17 to Oct. 17, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m.
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