Here I am, sitting on the floor in the hallway of the courthouse with the child I represent beside me. There aren’t any available seats. While there are hundreds of people around us, he is lost in a video game which (I hope) is a veiled distraction for what’s to come. He wants to talk to the judge. He’s scared and nervous. He scared of meeting new people and seeing people he’d rather forget. In his mind he feels that the only way to get what he wants is to fight for it so that is what he is doing. At eight years old he is demonstrating a level of courage I have yet to attain.
I’m a Court Appointed Special Advocate or CASA; a volunteer that advocates for the best interest of abused and neglected children in the courtroom. CASAs come from all walks of life and have a variety of backgrounds but, we all have one thing in common. Our role is to work towards what is in the best interest of the child-to make a difference.
The child has done nothing wrong. Their parent(s) were unable or unwilling to properly care for them and the state had to intervene. They ended up in the system because the state determined that removal was in their best interest. Once in the system, the child, based on circumstances will be placed in a foster or group home. They are alone and confused. They are foster kids and nobody listens to a child in “the system”.
The court system is backlogged. Child welfare workers are usually short on experience, short on time, and over-extended on cases. Everyone involved on a case is working for the best interest of the child. That said, turnover rates of welfare workers, lawyers, and other parties involved in the case are very high and new faces appear almost daily. These children need stability and that is where a CASA can help.
As a CASA, I provide a report to the judge based on my gathering of information that includes reviewing documents as well as interviewing family members and other professionals. I also play and regularly interact with the child. I provide a level of consistency and mentoring for a child that they need and want.
Being a CASA is a way to help a child and actually make a difference. Judges who appoint CASA’s understand and value the input we provide. I get to be a positive role model in the lives of the children I represent and they have made an impact on me in return. Being a CASA is a simple way to give back for the blessed life I have.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a CASA, please go to http://www.casaforchildren.org or https://maricopacasa.org .
Maricopa County CASA