Change a life: Orientation for foster children’s CASA program Wednesday, Aug. 20
Child Advocates of Nevada County’s CASA program has 51 CASA’s — Court Appointed Special Advocates.
Those CASA’s are currently working with 77 children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. CASA’s are volunteers, from all walks of life and with varied backgrounds. They are screened, trained and supported to work with children who desperately need stability, predictability and a safe adult in their lives, someone who will stick with them all the way through the court process to a loving, secure and permanent home.
After being trained by Child Advocates and appointed by the court, CASA’s are matched with a child who has an open case in Dependency Court. The CASA spends time with that child or sibling group, learns about the situation and finds out what the child wants and needs.
The CASA works with the child’s family, social worker, other professionals, and the court to determine what course of action is in the child’s best interests.
They also find ways to make life a little better.
This summer, four kids are going to summer camp because of the efforts of a CASA who rallied friends and neighbors to support the cost. Another CASA volunteered in her CASA child’s preschool classroom to give him the support and familiarity he needed at school.
One CASA took her child, who dreams of becoming a dancer, to a dance performance she would not otherwise have seen. One CASA takes her child to the library, a place he’d never heard of, and they read together nearly every week.
A CASA surprised a teenager with a roomful of beautiful dresses, shoes and jewelry that she’d gathered. Her CASA teen spent hours trying them on and chose her favorite outfit for her prom. One CASA child was removed a second time from his home and placed in foster care. His CASA was there to listen, to reassure, and to share his pain.
One CASA was “home-base” when her child visited a mother she didn’t remember very well.
The little girl returned repeatedly to sit on her CASA’s lap to take a break from the stress of the visit. One CASA found her teenager new and gently used clothes, bringing just a little normalcy to a girl in a tragic situation.
Another CASA found a place for a child who loves horses to learn to ride. One CASA works with her CASA child on her homework so she can attend the school of her choice.
CASA’s take their kids out for ice cream, to the park, to the movies. They listen, they share the child’s hopes and fears. They show, in a hundred different ways, the surpassing value of the most vulnerable children in our community.
But it’s not only the kids who benefit from the CASA program. One retired attorney who, during her training, asked many hard questions and voiced some doubts about her ability to connect on a personal level with the child(ren) to whom she would eventually be assigned, teared up repeatedly while describing her CASA experience of the last year and a half. It has changed her life, she said, seeing the difference in her CASA child from the beginning of their relationship to today. Her child has settled and blossomed, grown in confidence and worked through several worrisome mental health symptoms, and the bond between she and the child is so strong she expects it to last a lifetime. She spoke to the personal growth she has experienced as well, and expressed gratitude for the support she has received from the program and for the chance to make such a significant contribution to the well-being of a severely impacted child.
Not all children in dependency court have a CASA. There is a waiting list. So that every child that needs a CASA gets one, the CASA program will be holding an informational meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 20, for anyone interested in learning about becoming a CASA.
The meeting will feature Judge Scott Thomsen, CASA staff and experienced CASA’s. A training, one of two held each year, will run from Sept. 8 through Oct. 8 on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Anyone interested in additional information about the program can attend the orientation meeting at 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 20 at 208 Providence Mine Rd., Suite #119, Nevada City, and/or contact Child Advocates of Nevada County, http://www.caofnc.org., call 530- 265-9550 ext 222, or email Melinda@caofnc.org.
Melinda Douros is the program manager for CASA.
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