CASA volunteers to bring new hope, advocacy to foster children

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Jennifer Manning of Paradise Valley looks through files to choose a new foster child’s court case at the Voices for CASA Children’s office on May 21. (submitted photo)

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Jennifer Manning of Paradise Valley looks through files to choose a new foster child’s court case at the Voices for CASA Children’s office on May 21. (submitted photo)

Thanks to a two-day CASA “Case-a-Palooza” event in May, Voices for CASA Children announced that 54 new children will receive much-needed advocacy services in Arizona.

The goal of these Court Appointed Special Advocates — also known as CASAs — is to give every lost and voiceless child a brighter future. Currently, only 1 in 10 foster children has an advocate in Maricopa County, according to a press release.

Many participating CASA volunteers have current cases closing due to children successfully being placed in permanent homes – either through adoption or reunification with their family.

Others are past advocates wishing to begin anew after completing an earlier case.  This bi-annual event allows them to review open cases and potentially select a child or sibling group to receive the important benefit of a court advocate.

“As cases are closed or children age out of the system, CASA volunteers must decide if they are ready to commit to a new case,” stated Robin Pearson, executive director of Voice for CASA Children, in the release. “While the work of a child advocate is incredibly rewarding, it can also be difficult. This event gives past CASA volunteers an opportunity to consider their options and reconnect with their CASA community.”

“These advocates are truly special and dedicated to being a voice for abused and neglected children. There simply aren’t enough volunteers to address this desperate need, so we’re always thrilled when a current CASA volunteer decides to take on a new case or a former advocate returns to help another child.”

Court Appointed Special Advocates are highly-trained volunteers, assigned to advocate in a child’s best interest, the release stated. As an officer of the court, an advocate visits with the foster child and anyone involved in his or her life, from foster parents to teachers and doctors.

A CASA volunteer serves as the eyes and ears of the court and submits a report to the judge before each court hearing with recommendations. CASA volunteers are often the most consistent person in a foster child’s life and are especially valuable because they typically focus their time on one child or family at a time, the release stated.

Children with an advocate assigned to their case are more likely to receive services, spend less time in the child welfare system and are less likely to return to foster care. Unfortunately, not every child has a CASA volunteer. The number of children in care in Arizona continues to rise, putting further burden on the child welfare system and creating an even greater need for volunteer advocates.

Child Welfare Statistics:

  • In the six-month period of April 2015 to September 2015, the Child Abuse Hotline received 26,455 calls.  They can receive over 400 calls in any given day.
  • Neglect is the most common form of child abuse followed by physical abuse.
  • Reports of child abuse and neglect have been consistently rising in Arizona since 2009.
  • There are currently over 18,000 Arizona children living in out-of-home care.
  • Approximately one third of children who are in out-of-home care in Arizona (34.5 percent) are ages 1 to 5.

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