While in college, I worked as a counselor for at-risk children and teens. I worked at a middle school, which after school hours, served as a safe zone for children and teenagers who lived in the city’s high-crime areas. It has been nearly 20 years since I worked at this school, but many stories have stayed with me over the years. Many kids who attended this program, have stayed locked away in my heart.
Kids* like Marisela, who at 12-years old had been sexually assaulted by her stepfather. Kids like Joey, who wore his mother’s belt marks like tattoos. Like Angelina, who served as a yo-yo in her parents’ divorce, and who, on a good day, ate dry cake mix for dinner because there was no other food in the house. Stories likes these broke my heart in two.
What give me hope is that these kids and others like them have organizations such as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to help them navigate through traumatic situations. And, let me tell you, these CASA volunteers…well, they’re good. No, they’re beyond good. They’re excellent. Superstars. Heroes among us.
A CASA volunteer speaks for the best interests of an abused and neglected child in the foster care system, and represents them in the court process, thus ensuring their right to a safe and secure home. They are advocates to those who need one the most.
Every child in our community represents our future, and they all deserve to feel safe and secure, but not all do. For some of us, that’s hard to imagine. But, it’s happening. In fact, CASA has served more than 3,400 children in Washoe County since its inception. That’s a lot of kids, and believe it or not, there are more who need the support that CASA volunteers provide.
As if finding advocates for children wasn’t impressive enough, CASA also thoroughly trains volunteers so they can confidently represent the child assigned to them. That’s right. You don’t have to be a lawyer or a social worker to be a volunteer. CASA welcomes people from all walks of life so doctors, teachers, welders, mechanics, small business owners, retail associates, stay-at-home moms, consultants – take note. The organization welcomes anyone who cares about children, and is willing to commit 12 to 18 months to help work through a case. It just takes 12 to 18 months to change the life of a child forever.
As a mom of two very active boys, I know how busy life can be; luckily there are other ways to help. If becoming an advocate seems too overwhelming, consider becoming a friend of CASA by holding a fundraiser in partnership with the Washoe CASA Foundation, introducing CASA to friends and family or church and business groups through an educational presentation. You can also make a donation (i.e. monetary, gift cards, etc.).
For more information about CASA, including how you can become a volunteer or friend, visit http://washoecasafoundation.com/