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March 18, 2014
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Guest column: CASA volunteers can really make a difference for kids

When I retired after working in education for 35 years, I wanted a serious volunteer opportunity that would use my skills but be something totally different from anything I had experienced thus far.

After almost five years of volunteering with Court Appointed Special Advocates of Douglas County, I can tell you honestly that it fills the bill.

I started with the comprehensive training provided by CASA staff that prepared me for the adventures ahead. The training was thorough and CASA staff have always been there to advise, assist and fill in for me as needed. Since I am retired, it is important to me that my wife and I can still travel for extended periods and that knowledgeable CASA staff will fill in for me. I am only asked to take one case at a time (unless I want more).

What do CASA kids need? It’s simple and it’s complicated. They need an advocate. They need an adult who can get to know them, understand their situation, listen to their fears and hopes, and speak for them when they can’t speak for themselves. They need someone who is there, not because they are paid to be there or because of a family obligation, but because they want to make sure that the child’s needs are the primary concern in all the decisions that will be made while the child is in state care. They need someone who will interview the parents, foster parents, relatives, teachers, counselors and anyone else involved in providing care. When needed, their CASA advocate may recommend additional home, health care and educational services to ensure their safety and well-being.

As a volunteer, you will be shocked at some of the situations CASA kids have experienced — and you will be amazed at their spirit and resilience. You will be frustrated with the overburdened system and its bewildering complexities — and you will be impressed with the dedication of the professionals who work through these challenges every day to do their best for the children in their care. CASA volunteers spend time with the children that the professionals on the case simply don’t have. We can’t make everything all right, but we really do make a difference.

Who volunteers for CASA? People just like you: full- or part-time professionals; semi-retired or retired educators; stay-at-home parents; and college-age students. You do not have to be a lawyer, teacher or social worker to be a volunteer. We all have different strengths and bring different skill sets and experiences to the job. A typical CASA volunteer is someone who passionately cares about the health and welfare of children, wants a good quality of life for everyone in their community, believes that abuse is unacceptable, and understands that children who witness or experience abuse are forever affected.

Anyone can help CASA as we look out for the well-being of children in our community. Being an advocate isn’t a good fit for everyone. There are plenty of opportunities to support in other ways. Volunteers help with fundraising, community events, and activities to raise awareness of children needing help.

If you are interested, please join us. There are kids out there who need you.

John Williams and his wife, Diane, have lived in Douglas County for 33 years and raised two sons here. He is on the Sunrise board of directors and is a volunteer with United Community Action Network, helping people sign up for the Affordable Care Act. If you want to learn more about CASA of Douglas County, call Katherine at 541-672-7001, or send an email to Katherine@casaofdouglascounty.org.

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The News-Review Updated Mar 18, 2014 11:10AM Published Mar 18, 2014 11:08AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.