August 11, 2005 at 7:38 PM CDT - Updated July 2 at 8:30 PM
CASA - Volunteering to Make a Difference By: Amy Jacquin
Many Heartland children need your help. They're in foster care and the court system, through no fault of their own. And they need a voice to speak for them. But CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, volunteer to make a difference.
"I got my child when she was 21 days old," says Mary Claire Archer.
Mary Claire trained to be a CASA a year ago. She's still on her first case, a baby in the middle of domestic problems. "It's indescribable," she describes the first time she held her CASA child. "To the point where I felt like I just wanted to pack her up and take her myself."
Volunteers get to know the children and everyone else involved, like biological and foster parents. They interview, listen, and monitor progress. Then make a heart-felt recommendation to the judge. "I think to do a good job, or to give your best effort for the child, you have to be emotionally involved," says Mary Claire.
Barbara Campbell agrees. She's on her third case, it involves three young siblings."They're innocent!" adds Barbara. "They're caught up in a situation that's not of their making."
A CASA's recommendation is just that. The judge makes the final decision. But these volunteers know their opinion is valued and respected."You're there for the child, and that's it," states Barbara. "It's very important people know that there are children out there who need them."
Mary Claire and Barbara admit they'll follow the progress of their CASA children throughout their lives."It opens your heart, that you just want to help somebody and make a difference in that life," stresses Barbara. "That little life that maybe doesn't have anybody else that really helps them."
You may be asking how much time does it really take?The CASA director, Pam Jenkins, says there's more required at first, as you familiarize yourself with the case and the people. But after that, it averages out to four hours a month.
The most important thing is that your boss is flexible, for when you have to appear in court.
The next CASA training session starts in September. You must first pass two background checks. Classes run two evenings a week for six weeks.
The Cape office represents cases in Cape, Perry and Bollinger counties. Volunteers do not have to live in those counties.