I have been a CASA volunteer since my retirement from teaching in 2007. I am writing this letter to encourage others to become a CASA volunteer.
A CASA Volunteer is a court-appointed special advocate for children the court has deemed abused and/or neglected. They become the eyes and ears of the court, representing to the judge and all parties involved what they consider as the best interested of the child. In order to make those recommendations to the court, the CASA visits with the child at least once a month, and meets with other adults involved with the child (parents, foster parents, DCYF workers, therapists, teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, and other relatives). In one of my cases with a teenage boy, he considered his basketball coach the most important adult in his life.
There have been many times in my volunteer career as a CASA when I have felt like the lone voice speaking for the child. In one case, a 12-year-old child who had been living in a pre-adoptive foster home for almost two years was suddenly pulled from that home and placed in another with little to no explanation to the child. As the child’s CASA, I stood firm in advocating for her to be returned to her pre-adoptive home, and she eventually was. A few months later, she was adopted by that family.
In another case that was about to be closed, I, as the CASA, was the only one who advocated to keep it open because the abusive father was about to be released from prison. The court ruled in favor, and kept the case open for three months to give the team time to put some safeguards in place.
The CASA is often the only consistent adult in the child’s life as they are sometimes moved from one foster home to another or from one family member to another. As this happens, the child is often forced to change schools, therapists, neighborhoods, and communities. Often, the child protection worker is also changed.
The COVID-19 crisis and shutdown has had a huge impact on the number of abuse and neglect cases in New Hampshire. It is expected that with the state re-opening, the courts are going to be inundated with child neglect/abuse cases.
CASA of New Hampshire now offers ongoing online training for new volunteers, the next class begins August 3.
The have also developed extensive ways for CASAs to communicate with their children, families, and foster families other than face to face. This would be a great time to look into becoming a CASA Volunteer.
To find out more about CASA of NH or to apply to become a volunteer, go to www.casanh.org or call 626-4600.