Speaking for children in need
The child welfare community generally accepts the fact that while the foster care system has come a long way in recent years, there is still much to be done to ensure the health and well-being of the children and youth it serves. There are hundreds of children in the foster care system in Southwest Louisiana. Did you ever wonder who speaks for them?
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), a division of Family & Youth, are trained volunteers who speak in court for the best interests of a child who has been removed from his or her home due to abuse and/or neglect. These volunteers are ordinary people from all walks of life who step-up to assist judges in getting to know the child and their specific case. They care, listen, and put the child’s interests before all others. CASA volunteers do not provide legal representation, nor do they replace case workers, but they serve as the eyes and ears of the court in partnership with involved parties. Ultimately, they speak for the children they represent when they cannot speak for themselves to help them heal and thrive. In 2021, 47 CASA volunteers in Southwest Louisiana devoted more than 772 hours to serving 211 children total, closing 19 cases.
“By being that caring, consistent adult, CASA volunteers have been the certainty in uncertain times for abused and neglected children,” said Michaelynn Parks, Vice President of Family & Youth. “While the child may have multiple attorneys, case workers, therapists and foster placements throughout the duration of their case, having a consistent CASA volunteer is vital for stability.”
The impact of trained and motivated CASA volunteers has been profound. According to the National CASA/GAL Association for Children, some 93 percent of judges who oversee children in foster care report that CASA volunteers are effective in promoting the long-term well-being of youth they are assigned to, and 79 percent report benefits in terms of psychological well-being. Furthermore, the rate of youths who leave foster care but then are forced to return to it is cut in half if a CASA volunteer is involved.
When a CASA volunteer is assigned to a child’s case, a higher number of services are ordered for children and families. A child with a CASA volunteer is more likely to have better outcomes academically and behaviorally in school as measured by whether they passed all their courses, whether they were expelled and their conduct performance. In addition, children with advocates report significantly higher levels of hope due to positive outcomes such as their overall wellbeing, academic success, increase in self-control, positive social relationships, and optimism.
To become a CASA volunteer, the following is required:
Must be 21 years old or older
Participate in an entry interview
30-hours of training
Pass a background check
Volunteering for CASA does not require special education or qualifications, just a heart for children in need. For more information about CASA or to sign up for training to become a volunteer, please contact Family & Youth at 337-436-9533.