C.A.S.A. volunteers are there for the children
How many adults do not feel nervous when seeing a police car in the rear-view mirror even if doing no wrong? Is it not intimidating when going into a courtroom, even if only for a minor traffic ticket? Imagine then how a child must feel when strangers invade their world as they know it, especially if they are taken away from their family.
Life may not have been pleasant with inadequate food, clothes and attention. There may be verbal and physical abuse but this is their family and probably all they have known. Aren’t all families like this? Even when knowing it should be different, is it better to have “the devil they know than the one they do not know?” There is a great fear of what will happen and imagination only adds to this.
Workers from children services choose that career because they care but too often are constrained by having more cases assigned than they can effectively handle. There are also mandates of what they can do, must do and cannot do. Court dockets are full. Many cases go on for months and even years. The current increase in illegal drug use also has increased the number of children involved with social services.
After many years and many obstacles, Ashland County will soon have a C.A.S.A. program. Court Appointed Special Advocates are trained volunteers who advocate for the children. They do relevant research and interview caseworkers, teachers, family members as well as anyone else involved in the child’s life. Since cases sometimes are not resolved for years, social workers and lawyers often change but C.A.S.A. volunteers are a constant presence throughout the situation. They attend meetings and hearings, can explain proceedings to the child and very importantly they listen to the child’s questions and concerns. Reports of their findings and recommendations are presented to the judge.
Is this needed? If one child is helped through the trauma the efforts are worthwhile. In Ashland County in 2016 there were 1,000 calls that came into child protective services with 320 investigated. While numbers vary, there can be between 70 and 100 children in custody at a time. Besides the benefits for the youths, the C.A.S.A. program provides more information for the caseworkers and the court. This can expedite cases to quicker resolution, which is critical when a week can seem like an eternity for a child.
This is an opportunity for caring adults in our county to assist these children through some life-changing experiences. The time commitment is not as might be expected. There is an initial training of 30 hours and some court observation. Some continuing education is required every year. Each case varies but the average time per month is usually only two to 10 hours.
Children “in the system” will remember and appreciate their C.A.S.A. volunteer. The more they can be supported means less chance of problems such as vandalism, drugs and jail. It has been shown across the nation that children with C.A.S.A. volunteers spend less time in foster care and do better in school. Everyone benefits.
Please consider becoming one of the 750,000 C.A.S.A. volunteers in the United States. We cannot always assume that someone else is willing or able to step forward and many are needed. Can there be a better investment of our time than to help innocent children?
The program is being coordinated by the office of Ashland Parenting Plus. For more information call 419-281-3788.