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All children have a right to a home with loving people to care for them. But each year in the United States, more than three million children are reported abused or neglected millions of children are abused, neglected, or abandoned by their families. Nearly half a million of them are removed from their homes and placed in foster care or institutions. Eventually, they end up as "Wards of the Court" and a Judge must decide their future. A child's future can easily get lost in an overburdened system.
Tragic stories of abuse and neglect make the headlines and statistics of brutalized children are often quoted in the media. Concerned citizens shake their heads and ask, "Why doesn't someone do something?" That's where you step in and help by becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer speaking up in court for the best interest of the child.
This isn't an issue in a far-off location. It is happening in the State of Arizona, the County of Cochise and in the town where you live.
You don't have to be a lawyer or social worker to be a volunteer. We're simply looking for people with a desire to help abused children. As a CASA volunteer, you'll receive training from professionals in the legal and welfare fields, and you'll have the complete support of your CASA organization to help you through each case.
The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer is appointed by the Presiding Juvenile Judge and acts as their "eyes and ears" to help them determine what is best for these "dependent" children. The Volunteer has the authority, by Court Order, to gather confidential information about the children and their family; determine if reasonable efforts have been made to reunify the family once the cause of the children's removal has been addressed; to help ensure that appropriate case planning is implemented, and to make sure that services are available for both the child and family.
The Volunteers make an independent assessment of the situation and then develop recommendations as to what the best permanent placement should be. That could include return to parent, placement with a relative, long-term foster care, or adoption. And they always let the child know they are there, with them all the way until that one goal is reached - a safe, permanent and nurturing home.
They prepare written reports for the Court to inform the Judge of his/her assessment of the case, opinions and concerns, and recommendations regarding placement, counseling, medical needs, educational needs, and such. The Volunteer is asked to attend all court hearings and other meetings involving his/her case.
Perhaps the most important role of the CASA is to develop a caring, positive relationship with the child and to be a stable presence for the child. Because these children often experience many different placements, caseworkers, and/or therapists, while they are in the child welfare system, there is a great need for one person to be there for them the entire time.
Currently in Cochise County, we have about 200 children in foster care. Only about 30% of those children have a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) who has taken action to give them a voice in court. The CASAs in Cochise County dedicate time and energy to ensure that the best interests of our children in care are being met. Never has the need for CASAs been greater than it is now! Will you take positive action for Cochise County's foster children? Make that call today!