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Sponsored Content – CASA seeks volunteers to help children in family court system

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It’s 2:00 am. You’re 8 years old. You’re not a young 8. You’ve seen some stuff in your short life. You can’t sleep. Parents are arguing, but that’s nothing new. You’re hungry because the last thing you ate was a school lunch. Maybe you can’t sleep because your younger sister and brother are sleeping in the twin bed with you. Brother keeps taking the cover and sister is sweaty, clinging to you.

You hear a crash. Nothing new though you brace yourself. Sometimes this means the fight will involve you. Sometimes this means mama will take you somewhere else. You are scared, but try to be calm, quiet and still.

Suddenly, the police are there. You don’t understand what’s happening. There’s an argument and then hushed talking. One of the police officers looks into the bedroom with a flashlight. He sees you and your siblings and tells someone outside the room that there’s “three in here;” then more hushed talking. Maybe they calmed your parents down and would soon leave. You fight back a yawn as a woman opens the door. She tells you that you need to come with her. Who is she? Where is she taking you? Your sister starts to cry. Your brother asks if he can stay with dad. The woman says she is your DHR caseworker, and that your home is not safe for you right now. You must stay at her office for the night. Her office? You want to stay in your bed with your sweaty sister and blanket stealing brother. You want to be in your home. You want your parents to get along.

Mom is talking to a police officer. She is crying. Dad is gone. This situation feels bad to you. You leave with the caseworker, and for what’s left of the night and then most of the next day, you stay in a room in an office building. They give you cereal and snacks. You have some milk. You hear the caseworker on the phone. She is telling someone that there is no family. You are taken to a stranger’s home that is as far away as 8 radio songs and 2 commercial breaks. Brother is with you, but sister went somewhere else. When will you see your sister again? You are told the stranger is your foster parent. They seem okay, but you’re unsure. Why do they want you to be there? All you really want is to go home and be with your family. Who will tell someone that all you want is to go home and be with your family?

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Enter Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Jefferson County, an organization that trains, supervises, and supports volunteer advocates to be an independent voice for children navigating the family court system because of abuse or neglect. CASA volunteers are appointed by the Court.

It takes a special person to be a CASA volunteer not only because of the type of situations that bring children into the family court system, but because CASA volunteers undergo a four-session training. They must be willing to commit about five to ten hours a month to their case. CASA volunteers visit with the child, meet the child’s parents, foster parents, health care providers, teachers and anyone else who is an interested person. The CASA participates in IEP meetings. CASA volunteers facilitate and monitor service plans for their children. They are the “eyes and ears” of the Court, providing an independent and candid assessment of what is in the best interest of the child.

CASA children have experienced trauma, which can carry over into all areas of their lives. Trauma causes poor health and the inability to focus, learn and succeed in school. Trauma prevents the development of healthy relationships and the ability to self-regulate to avoid risky behaviors and choices. Yet positive, stable relationships can counterbalance trauma. A child with a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is more likely to find a safe, permanent home – never to return to a life of abuse and unmet needs. A child with a CASA volunteer is more likely to receive health referrals and medical care.

Court Appointed Special Advocates are a regular presence in the lives of their court appointed children who have experienced what is unimaginable to most people. Year to date, CASA of Jefferson County has served 358 children in 173 cases. CASA is appointed in an average of two cases per week. 77% of children served by CASA identify as African American or Black. Only 50% of current cases are staffed with a volunteer. CASA has a current, pressing need for volunteers. Could that be you? If interested, check out casaofjeffersoncounty.org/get-involved/#volunteer where you can submit an inquiry to get an application.

Lend your voice! Change a child’s story. Volunteer with CASA of Jefferson County.