I met Nick when he had just offered a lifeline to a teenage boy living on the streets who needed a home. As a single man, he had no intention of becoming a parent, but fate can work in mysterious ways. Through Arizona Helping Hands, I was able to assist with a bed and other basic needs, but a child requires so much more than just those basic items.
Nick told me he was confused and lost in the quagmire of the foster care system. He had little clue as to how to navigate the red tape and move forward to achieve the best resolution of this boy’s case, frustrations that are shared by foster parents every day. Children in foster care who have experienced abuse and neglect need someone to speak up for them. That’s where a CASA – a Court Appointed Special Advocate – can make all the difference in the lives of boys and girls in foster care.
Maureen Rogers had volunteered as a CASA for years; she understood the complexities of the court system and the challenges faced by caring people like Nick. She entrenched herself in this case and spoke up before the Court for the best interest of the child, ultimately resulting in a successful adoption for Nick and his son.
CASA volunteers are truly special individuals. They complete 30 hours of training, and then work on a case until it is closed, typically 15 to 20 hours per month. A CASA’s focus is on building a relationship of trust with a child for whom trust does not come easily, and seeking cooperative solutions among the individuals and organizations involved in the child’s life. All with the goal of providing children who have experienced trauma and disruption with a loving family environment in which they can thrive.
Advocating and being the spokesperson for a voiceless child is an enormous responsibility. In Arizona, CASA’s like Maureen know that they do not stand alone. There is support provided by Voices for CASA Children (“VOICES”). VOICES was founded in 2011 by former CASA’s Robin Pearson and Victoria Strayer. These ladies saw first-hand the difference that having an Advocate in the room can make in foster care cases. They founded Voices to provide training, a supportive community and useful resources such as gas gift cards, holiday presents for the kids, school supplies and more to those who have stepped up to serve.
VOICES knows the positive impact a CASA volunteer can make on a child’s life. According to their website, a child with a CASA is more likely to find a safe, permanent home and (as in Nick’s case) to end in a successful adoption. With an advocate by their side, these boys and girls spend substantially less time in foster care, receive more services while in the system and do better in school.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every child in foster care had a partner like Maureen by their side? That’s the mission of Voices for CASA Children.
To learn more about becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate or to support the important work being done at Voices for CASA Children, visit www.voicesforcasachildren.org. VOICES is a Qualifying Foster Care Charitable Organization (QFCO #10010) and, as such, donations qualify for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit against your individual state tax liability.
Dan Shufelt, the former CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, has been involved in the charity world as an executive and grant maker for many years.
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