170601-nrr-casa-01

Court Appointed Special Advocates Board of Directors President Valerie Trout, middle, stands with CASA volunteer advocates Amber Urbaniak, left, and Penny Lapham at the CASA office in Roseburg on Wednesday.

The number of children entering the foster care system is exploding, and there’s hardly enough people to stand by their side as court-appointed special advocates.

As of May 31, there were 566 children in the foster care system in Douglas County. CASA of Douglas County was only able to take on 272, or 48 percent, of those cases.

Since January, 146 children have come into its care, according to CASA data. In 2016, there were 117. The number has steadily grown since 2013, when 41 children came into care.

When the Department of Human Services pulls children out of unsafe homes, laws require that they receive a court-appointed special advocate, often called a CASA. These advocates are volunteers who are managed by a local CASA nonprofit agency.

CASA of Douglas County only has 56 volunteers on hand this year. In previous years, the nonprofit limited each volunteer to one child’s case. Now, with children entering the foster care system in droves, the nonprofit assigns one or two cases to each volunteer.

Advocates stand by children as they maneuver through the foster care system. They make sure children make it to their doctor, dentist and therapy appointments. They investigate cases by interviewing parents, teachers, foster parents and anyone else in that child’s life. Then they read court documents, police reports and behavioral assessments. Through their homework, advocates develop recommendations on what outcome is in the best interest for the child. They also write reports to present to judges.

“Essentially, they are the sole voice for the child in foster care,” said Richelle Bryant, the CASA executive director. “The CASA (advocate) is holding everyone else accountable. They are essentially behaving as a surrogate, stable parent that is watching over that child. It’s incredibly important work.”

Without an advocate, children move through the foster care system alone. They will have some support from caseworkers and foster parents, but those people are generally overburdened with other children’s cases.

The four full-time staff at the CASA of Douglas County office frequently bring up their desperate need for volunteers. They hold outreach events at Starbucks, in which they educate the public on what it’s like to be a CASA volunteer advocate. At one point, their booth attracted the interest of Amber Urbaniak, a barista at the coffee shop.

Urbaniak had just moved from Michigan and was looking for a way to get involved in her community. She saw the perfect opportunity with CASA, where she could get to know volunteers who are passionate about helping children, while helping a child herself.

“CASA is a really positive aspect of this community,” Urbaniak said. “It was something new for me to learn.”

Becoming a CASA advocate takes a bit of dedication at first, because there is a high level of training involved. Advocates are required to commit to 40 hours of training. A lot of it can be done online now, said the CASA program director, Katherine Elisar. At least two days of training are in a classroom setting.

Advocates are trained to monitor their own biases when they are investigating a case. For example, a living situation might not be up to their personal standards, like dirty dishes piled in the kitchen sink, but it still could be a safe place to live.

Urbaniak has completed her training and was assigned her first case this month. Her case involves three siblings. She recently spent an hour getting to know them.

“I was super nervous, but seeing my children for the first time was a wonderful experience,” she said. “It was really positive.”

Long-time advocate Penny Lapham has been through instructions several times before. She has been volunteering with CASA for several years. She took on the role after she retired, since she had some early childhood education experience under her belt.

CASA has become her primary focus. She will go out of her way to visit a child who has been moved to a distant location, or one that has been admitted into a hospital in the middle of the night.

“As a CASA, I know that I’m paying attention to this child, and that’s all I have to do,” she said. “I can make sure that child doesn’t fall through the cracks and they get the services they need.”

{span style=”font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;”}Reporter April Ehrlich can be reached at 541-957-4202 or aehrlich@nrtoday.com.{/span}

React to this story:

Angry
3
Sad
8
Funny
0
Wow
0
Love
20

City Government Reporter

April Ehrlich covers city government for The News-Review. She can be contacted at 541-957-4202 or aehrlich@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @AprilEhrlich.

(3) comments

DL Hitt

DHS has collaborated with and transferred data and duties to HHS before June 30, 2011, smearing obligations of HIPAA into the future of Oregon liabilities.
Show me where this is not so. Douglas County policy encourages a systematic deployment of fundamental separation between original family and their children for multiple profits and gains. The investors, stakeholders involved have organized associations movement upon the populace with the pretext of child safety, for personal gain, even though legalities conflict with interests. Praying upon donor heart strings their victims are paraded through investor's predetermined under original jurisdictional settings rulings for a profit. Where cooperation ransom is ordered after a good pilfering, abduction, molestation in the name of safety and welfare is honored by the socialites. The explosion of the taking is a result of fabricating the fundamental duties from unconstitutional desires. Contributing to such a task would be to demoralize constituents that are without a clue, are destined to need the social services demanded of them. Filling a need that is brought on by the very monopoly is a perfect job opportunity for the oppressed area.

Kristisperling

More CASA. what a greedy county/state we have. Look at the numbers of failed kids. If there is a rule/Law that requires a CASA advocate for each child then DHS needs to stop kidnapping for cash and program quotas to keep there 60,000 dollar a year jobs. And help the FAMILIES FOR THE CHILDREN'S BENEFIT NOT THEIRS. FAMILIES!!! if you are going threw DHS greed then research your parental rights. AND FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! YOU HAVE RIGHTS! CASA is not doing their job they are the problem feeding the DHS monster. If not in DHS yet or you think you won't you are wrong. Our state is that broke and that greedy so IF THEY DO NOT HAVE A WARRENT FROM THE COURT OR A PICK UP ORDER FROM ONE OF OUR CROOKED JUDGES THEN THEY HAVE NO RIGHT ON YOUR PROPERTY PERIOD.... EVEN IF COPS ARE THERE! THEY ARE WRONG! STICK TO YOUR GROUND.....

Jdocken

So sad there is such a need. CASA is a great group and volunteering is easier than you might think.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.