By Jen Rodehaver
Editorial@lhvc.com 

Left Hand Laurel: CASA volunteers work for victims

 

March 25, 2017



When Voices for Children CASA moved its office from the Justice Center to Gunpark Drive last August, it was with little fanfare.

Few neighbors in this business district of Gunbarrel know about this organization which keeps a low profile and yet does some of the most important work in the county. Poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, and other societal pressures cause disruption to families and it is children who are often the most traumatized victims.

Voices for Children trains and places court appointed special advocates (CASAs) to children deemed to be unsafe in their home environment and have been placed with relatives or in foster care. This is not a typical few hours a week or few weeks a year volunteer position.

These humble, dedicated individuals go through a rigorous application process and extensive training program. They commit to a child or siblings for the duration of the court’s involvement which may take years to resolve. Because the assignment may be long term, CASAs have only one case at a time, expect to visit their clients at least once a month (but usually much more frequently) for a few hours for an average of 18 months. 


What is the purpose of the CASA? Nia Wassink, executive director of Voices for Children, explains that while the youngsters are experiencing upheaval in their lives, it is important to provide them with a stable adult they can trust, confide in and feel safe.

The CASA is not a caretaker or a caseworker but more of a friend to the child. They encourage participation at school and in the community, may attend therapy appointments and visitations, and monitor the child’s overall wellbeing.

Debbie Pink, a former BVSD teacher, finds the role of CASA rewarding and values the guidance she receives from the Voices for Children staff.

She particularly enjoys outings with the children, often taking them on walks with her dog, or weather permitting, to a playground. Sometimes, she and the children play indoor games or make snacks. Its important that the children relax and have fun in the company of an understanding adult.

Pink says, “ These are kids who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in a difficult situation. By building relationships I can make a difference and this is very satisfying.”

The effectiveness of the CASA program is undeniable. A child with a CASA does better in school, is less likely to spend time in long-term foster care, and more likely to have a plan for permanency.

CASAs are found throughout the nation. In Boulder County, it is Magistrate McLean - previously a CASA herself – who determines which children receive this support . At this point in time, there are more cases than the current 123 volunteers can absorb.


This is a concerning statistic when abuse or neglect is the common element to these cases. Interested adults are invited to an introductory meeting called “CASA 101” held the first Thursday of each month at 5:30pm at the Voices for Children office. Male CASAs are especially in demand. 6672 Gunpark Drive in Boulder; 303 440 7059 or http://www.vfccasa.org.

 

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