When children become involved in the court system through being removed from their homes in cases of neglect or abuse, it can be very scary and overwhelming. This is where Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers come in. Their job is to be the voice for children who cannot speak for themselves.
Their motto is “I am for the child.”
CASA of La Paz County is looking for volunteers. The program was active some years ago, but it has since lapsed. Recruiter Amy Putnam said they need about 35 volunteers, and, currently, they have none.
Putnam said volunteers work with children on a one-to-one basis. There is one CASA volunteer for each child. They work with the child from the start of the case until its final adjudication.
Most of the children CASA looks after have been removed from homes where domestic violence, abuse and neglect have taken place. Putnam said the children have often been traumatized by these events, and removing them from these unhealthy environments is just as traumatizing.
“The children need someone to look after their interests,” Putnam said.
The volunteers work as a liaison between the Department of Child Services, the courts, and foster homes. They also become what Putnam described as a “big brother or big sister” to the child.
“They establish a relationship and convey the child’s need to the court,” she said. “They become a mentor and a friend.”
To be a CASA volunteer, one must be at least 21 years old and will need to be available for an extended period of time. No legal training is necessary. They have to be willing to offer 15 to 20 hours per month. They must also pass a background check. Once a potential volunteer has turned in an application and been accepted, he or she will need to attend 30 hours of training. They may be sent to the CASA Academy in Phoenix for that training.
CASA of La Paz County is affiliated with CASA of Arizona, which itself is affiliated with the National Court Appointed Special Advocates Association. The CASA movement includes over 1,000 programs nationwide. Literature from the organization states, “The CASA movement strives to ensure that society is fulfilling its most fundamental obligation to children in need: to fight for and protect a child’s right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect, and to learn and grow in the security of a loving home.”
To learn more about CASA of La Paz County, go to their website, www.CASAofLaPazCounty.org.