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By ALICE NICHOLS, guest columnist
One of the things that I am most grateful for in my life is the privilege of always having had work to do that feels “meaningful.” It is a great blessing to be able to end the day knowing that we have had the opportunity to do something that makes a positive difference in the life of another person or something that contributes to the greater good. Meaningful work often is difficult, challenging and, at times, frustrating.
CASA of the Heartland, the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, is always looking for volunteer advocates who want to do some of that meaningful and challenging work. CASA’s job is to recruit, train and support advocates who are appointed by Family Court to be a voice for children who are in the court system because they have been neglected or abused. This is difficult and sometimes stressful and heart-wrenching work. Some people find it hard to believe that there are actually those who are willing and eager to do it, especially without pay.
About now, you might be thinking, “Is she trying to attract volunteers, or is she trying to keep us away?” And the answer is, “Both.” CASA is trying to attract volunteers who have not only the “heart” for the job at hand, but also the “mind” and the “strength.” We need volunteers who are up for a challenge. We know there are plenty of other worthwhile volunteer opportunities that require less time and energy — some of them might even be relaxing. CASA needs volunteers who want to use their time and talents in a different way.
CASA for children is a national organization with state and local affiliates. CASA volunteers act as an extra set of eyes and ears for judges, advocate for safety, stability, and permanency, and serve as a child’s voice in court. Children under the Family Court’s protection may change schools, teachers, foster homes, therapists and social workers. The CASA volunteer remains the constant adult in the child’s life throughout the court process until the child is in a safe, loving, permanent home.
Because CASA volunteers are sworn in and court-appointed, they are issued court orders that allow access to all records pertaining to the child. The CASA volunteer spends time with the child, researches all available information about the child and the family, interviews persons in the child’s life and works with social workers, teachers, foster parents, day care providers, and anyone else who is closely involved. The volunteer puts together the pieces of information, writes reports of findings to a judge, and makes independent recommendations to judges based on the findings.
Does all that sound challenging enough for you? If you think you might be up to it, give us a call at 982-2242 or email us at heartlandcasa@ gmail.com. Our next volunteer training program is June 6-20.
Alice Nichols is chairwoman of CASA of the Heartland’s board of directors.