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Do you really know CASA?

by Betty Wirth

In the timeless words of a popular Whitney Houston song “The Greatest Love of All,” she sings: “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside, give them a sense of pride …”.

Children are perhaps our most critically vulnerable population, precisely because they are the future. They are our community and our country’s future. They are your future, and mine. For millions of children across the country, however, home sweet home, isn’t always so sweet! Sometimes it’s an unsafe and very confusing place.

CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates, is a national non-profit organization made up of advocates dedicated to the well-being of children sadly caught up in the juvenile and domestic relations court. Advocates are volunteers who accept a child’s case, after a judge requests CASA’s assistance. Advocates do just that: they advocate for the child’s best interest and have been described as “indispensable” by judges due to social service agencies and guardians ad litem being inundated with heavy caseloads.

Court appointed advocates investigate the child’s life. The court order allows for an advocate to speak with school personnel, doctors, counselors, family and extended family members-and report back to the court via written reports before each scheduled hearing.

Pamela B. was one such child and gave this testimony: “Pat was there for me the entire way, advocating for visits with my old foster family, making sure I was seeing my therapist regularly, and checking with my teachers to make sure I was managing in school. She told me things can only get better, and that I just need to hang in there until they do. I never had someone stand up for me like she did. She stood before the judge, the lawyers, my mother and caseworkers and wasn’t swayed by their opinions. It completely amazed me.

“I trusted her more with every visit and every call and found myself enjoying her check-ups and questioning. She became not only an advocate, but a friend I could truly count on. Earlier this year, I testified to a legislative committee on behalf of the CASA program. At the testimony I said: ‘To give a child a CASA is to give them a voice. To give them a voice is to give them hope, and to give them hope is to give them the world.’ I believe that with all my heart.”

Advocates essentially promote and model a child’s self-worth and inherent value by paying close and dedicated attention to all areas of input into that child’s life. To be in support of the community’s vulnerable children and their well-being directly encourages what could be essential life-changing lessons to the child; learning to love themselves and learning that there are adults who truly care.

Currently, the Northern Neck CASA Program has 15 dedicated advocates from all walks of life. They are the backbone of the organization. Consider the profound difference you could make in the life of a vulnerable child. Won’t you consider joining the CASA family?

For information on advocating please call the CASA office, 462-0881, or email advocate coordinator Jennifer Bryant, [email protected].

Betty Wirth is the director of the Northern Neck Court Appointed Special Advocate Program, Inc.

Rappahannock Record Staff
Rappahannock Record Staff
From the Rappahannock Record news team

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