The foster care system is full of stories of miscommunication and opportunities lost but there are individuals across Arizona who volunteer their time to keep that from happening in the future: Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA advocates.
Court Appointed Special Advocates are everyday community members who go through thorough screening and training and are then appointed by a judge to keep an eye on a case. They focus on just one case at a time and are asked to visit the children involved at least once a month to get to know those children personally. They do their homework on the case, visiting with the case manager, foster parents, teachers, therapists, doctors and anyone else that child may interact with. The information they gather goes into a report which goes directly before the judge before each court hearing.
The benefits are many. Children with a CASA advocate have been found to spend less time in care, receive more targeted services and perform better in school. This happens because the child has a consistent, caring adult looking over their case and making recommendations directly to the court.
In some recent cases:
Because of a CASA, a teenage boy was reunified with his biological father who had moved out of the state. The team had had difficulty finding that dad, but the CASA wouldn’t give up and encouraged the case manager to keep trying. When dad was located he had no idea his son was in foster care and he was eager to bring him home.
Because of a CASA, a baby was able to be placed in a home that had previously adopted her siblings. That foster home had closed their license after adoption and the new case manager took that as a sign that they would not be interested in another baby. When the CASA reached out she found a family desperate to keep siblings together.
Because of a CASA, a baby was able to be reunited with her teen mom and stay connected with her family. The CASA took note of all the services the young mom was completing and all the steps she was taking in the right direction. She noted how the mom had bonded with her baby and she made sure the judge heard that report.
Unfortunately there is a not a Court Appointed Special Advocate on every case. In Arizona there are more than 14,000 children in foster care and only 1,100 CASA advocates statewide. Giving just 20 hours each month to look out for and speak up for a child could make all the difference. For more information on how to become an advocate, or to request one on a case, visit casaofarizona.org.
CASA Community Outreach Specialist