The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Brandon Cline
Reporter 

CASA still needs volunteers

 

September 6, 2017

Max Erikson

The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) office needs many more volunteers.

Volunteers are desperately needed in Klickitat County to be a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children who are victims of abuse and neglect, providing a voice for a child and presenting information to a judge to help them make accurate rulings regarding the child's future.

Klickitat County CASA is currently accepting applications for people who have a desire to make an enormous difference in a child's life and give support and encouragement to children who need it the most.

Ashley Bryan, who is the program coordinator for CASA, says she is currently working with 34 children in Klickitat County who are under court supervision but only has five volunteers to help manage the case load.

"We need volunteers so badly," Bryan said. "Our most vulnerable populations really need our love and support, and these kids just need someone to encourage them and show them they are valuable and loved."

CASA is an umbrella organization of the juvenile department of Klickitat County and was established in Seattle in 1978. It has 39 offices in the state-one in each county-and became a national organization dedicated to providing representation and advocacy to children who are involved in domestic court cases.

Bryan says 76 percent of children she is advocating for are under five-years-old and was once told by a judge that CASA volunteers become the eyes and the ears of the court for a child.

"We gather information and make recommendations to the court," Bryan said. "We are always in the best interest of the child and that usually means getting them back with their families."

Bryan says volunteering is very demanding, but the end result is usually a happy one with the child being reunited with their families.

To begin the process of becoming a volunteer, there are initial steps taken before you are eventually sworn in by a judge to become a certified Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).

Bryan recommends calling the CASA offices first to get a broader understanding of the commitment and ask questions about what volunteering entails. Potential volunteers will then fill out an informational packet and are required to have fingerprints taken and have a criminal background check.

Bryan says the background check goes back seven years, and each one is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Only convictions of child abuse or other violent crimes are grounds for automatic refusal.

When volunteers are cleared, 30 hours of training must be completed before being sworn in by the courts. Training involves on-site visits, courtroom experience and completing a small workbook.

"I really like on-the-job training," Bryan said. "We go to the courtrooms, we meet the children. I want volunteers to really get an idea of what they will be doing before being sworn in."

Bryan says people who are caring and compassionate are the best candidates for volunteers, and once officially sworn in as CASA they will have the choice to be assigned to a single child or a sibling group.

One case assignment can last between one and three years, depending on how the courts proceed with the case. During that time, volunteers must ensure the child is being properly cared for, is in a safe environment, and get a better understanding of where the child is physically and emotionally.

The volunteer commitment is approximately five hours a month with weekly visits with the assigned child and contacting parents to encourage them to complete their court-ordered mandates, which usually includes counseling and treatment for substance abuse or anger management.

Following up on medical and dental appointments, learning more about the child's needs, and monitoring parents' commitment to completing their program is part of the information gathering that a CASA does before presenting testimony to the judge.

People who are bilingual in Spanish are highly encouraged to apply.

"It melts your heart when a child says, 'Thank you for believing in me and loving me,'" said Bryan. "The kids are why I'm here."

To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer and starting the process to become certified, call Ashley Bryan at 773-2473.

 

Reader Comments
(0)

 
 

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019

Rendered 05/02/2019 19:33