March 13, 2013 | Back to: Opinion

Guest column: CASA volunteers make a difference for children

I am the program director at CASA of Douglas County. I have one of the best jobs in the world because I have the opportunity to help others change the lives of vulnerable children.

At CASA we believe that child abuse is not an insurmountable societal ill. Anyone can actively be part of the solution and we offer people a proven way to make a positive difference in the life of a child.

The stories I hear every day are many things — shocking, heartwarming, horrible, fascinating, tragic, even funny. Usually they are combination of these. But all the stories have one thing in common: They are a testament to the amazing spirit of the children we serve. They are survivors and when given a chance they are more: with love and safety they thrive.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) help children find that place of love and safety. CASAs are trained volunteers, appointed by the court to advocate for children. They are people who fight to make sure a child’s basic rights and essential needs don’t get overlooked by the overburdened foster care and child welfare system. They are people like you who help create better endings to a child’s story.

CASA is a volunteer-powered network of committed people — from all walks of life — who believe society has a fundamental obligation to neglected children. People like you who believe that every child has the right to be treated with dignity, to be safe, and to thrive in the embrace of a loving family. With a CASA volunteer, a child is half as likely to languish in foster care, and that much more likely to be in a permanent home.

In Douglas County, CASA is doing good things. We are involved with community collaborations that are successfully working with child welfare to strengthen at-risk families and return children from foster care back to a home that is nurturing. We are also successfully building our organization to serve more children through volunteerism, allowing us to grow without expanding our budget.

But we still have a way to go. Last year we served only 65 percent of the children in foster care in our community. We need you — we need more CASA volunteers to achieve our goal of serving 100 percent of foster children. People who believe that each child needs to have their rights protected and deserves a bright future.

CASAs are not superheroes, they are just regular people who have a little flexibility in their schedules. They are executives, students, stay-at-home moms, retirees, self-employed workers and more. They are mostly female, but more male volunteers are needed. They take on a case only after intensive screening and training (which is offered in Roseburg three to four times each year and online), and then supported by CASA supervisors.

CASA volunteers see their children at least once a month, review police and child services reports and interview parents, foster parents, teachers, physicians, therapists and others. CASAs, often referred to as the eyes and ears of the court, use information to make recommendations to the judge who makes the final decision in each case. In addition to their compassion, volunteers are asked to devote 10 to 20 hours a month as they follow a case for one and a half to two years — a typical timeline — until it is resolved.

I invite you call me if you are interested in becoming a CASA advocate. If you are unable to volunteer your time, please consider making a donation to help train other volunteers.

For every person who signs on as a volunteer, a child’s troubled life brightens with new potential.

Katherine Elisar has worked at CASA of Douglas County for five years and recruited and trained more than 150 CASA volunteer advocates. She can be reached at katherine@casaofdouglascounty.org or 541-672-7001.

KATHERINE ELISAR


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The News-Review Updated Mar 13, 2013 10:18AM Published Mar 13, 2013 05:06PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.