When you look up the word advocacy, you can find an abundance of definitions, including the “public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy”. However, Webster’s Dictionary says that advocacy is “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.” The act of supporting a child is what CASA does on a daily basis. By supporting and advocating for a child you can change their story and potentially the rest of their life. Giving a child hope and support will boost their confidence and show them that they are loved and important.
What is a CASA?
CASAs are court-appointed special advocates that advocate for the best interest of a child, ultimately transforming their lives for the better. These life-changing differences can be so impactful to children who have suffered from abuse and neglect. Many of the children who are appointed a CASA volunteer are in foster care. In Monroe County, hundreds of children, from newborn up to 18, are determined to be a CHINS, or child in need of services, every year.
Having a CASA gives the children hope and inspires them to look at the future in a new light. It shows them that they have someone who is a constant in their life and is there to be their voice in court. Children in foster care often experience a lot of instability and change, so having someone they can count on makes a world of difference. Not only does the CASA volunteer change the lives of the children that they help, but the children change the CASA’s life too.
What Do CASA Volunteers Do?
- Gather important information
- Document what they find from their observations
- Attend court hearings
- Explain the circumstances and situation to the child
- Be the child’s support and constant in their life
- Recommend services for the child
- Review case and court orders
- Keep everyone informed
Everything a CASA does is to help children in the community. By being an extra pair of eyes and ears the CASA can ensure that children are safe and get the services that they need to thrive. This volunteer experience is a commitment; however, it is one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences you may ever have.
Ways You Can Change a Child’s Story
There are many different ways to effectively advocate for a child. The first step is to be informed and listen. Whether you are a teacher at school, a community member, or someone who works closely with children, you can help look out for abuse or neglect. Start by working on building relationships with the children. Ask questions and show them that they can trust you if they have something to share. Remember that if you ever have reason to believe that a child is being abused or neglected, please call the Indiana Child Abuse hotline at 1-800-800-5556.
Another great way to get involved in helping children in our community is through volunteering. There are an abundance of organizations that offer volunteer opportunities around Bloomington. A few of these volunteer organizations include Monroe County CASA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Boys and Girls Club, and Girls Inc. All of these organizations allow you to give back to the local community and also help children who are in need.
Monroe County CASA is currently looking for more volunteers to advocate for children. They currently have 112 active volunteers, but there are still 29 children waiting for an advocate. The CASA they are looking for could be you. Are you up for the task?
- National CASA
- Advocates at School
- Monroe County CASA
- Bloomington Volunteer Network
- Foster Care / Monroe County
Written by: Nicole Eckert