A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is a trained citizen who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of a child in court. Children helped by CASA volunteers include those for whom home placement is being determined in court. Most of the children are victims of abuse and neglect.
CASA volunteers come from all walks of life and possess a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds.
CASA volunteers offer children trust and advocacy during complex legal proceedings. They help explain to the child the events happening involving the case, reasons they are in court and the roles of the judge, lawyers and case workers. While remaining objective observers, CASA volunteers also encourage the child to express his or her own opinion and hopes about their case.
CASA of Chautauqua County is in need of more CASA volunteers to help provide advocacy to the 47-plus children in need of a CASA volunteer. CASA volunteers are everyday people, and some people have the wrong impressions of what it takes to become a CASA volunteer. Those interested do not have to have a legal background or one in social services. Volunteers must be at least 21, go through 30 hours of training, a background check and be available to spend approximately 10 hours per month.
It is people who know what it's like to be a sister/brother or mother/father or cousins that CASA is looking for. We are looking for "everyday people that have a heart for kids and want to stand up for them when many times nobody else is doing that."
Judges appoint the advocates to watch over the children in the court system to make sure they don't get lost in the overburdened court system. Volunteers stay with each case until they are resolved and the child is placed into a safe, permanent home. Since CASA's national inception, CASA volunteers have helped more than 2 million children find safe and permanent homes. Volunteers are able to help judges by getting to know the child and talking with the adults in that child's life - from foster parents to teachers, physicians, attorneys, social workers and others.
CASA of Chautauqua wants people to know there are lots of places to serve within CASA. People who want to volunteer with CASA don't necessarily have to become advocates in court; CASA could use a number of talents, from helping with the newsletters to fundraising to awareness and more.
CASA, a nonprofit, runs on a very small budget and relies on volunteers to help serve the children in our community. When volunteers are in the courtroom with these children, it makes such a huge difference. It is very difficult for a judge to make recommendations regarding placement "because everybody is speaking for someone but nobody is solely interested in the well-being of the child like an advocate."
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to join in and help. For more information please join us on Nov. 13 at 5 p.m. at the James Prendergast Library's Fireplace Room for an informational meeting on CASA volunteer opportunities or contact the CASA office at 753-4123 or 753-4132 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.