Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of New Hampshire is a nonprofit that recruits, trains, and supports community volunteers to serve as advocates for abused or neglected children throughout the state. CASA volunteer advocates get to know a child, and the important people in that child’s life, in order to provide vital information to help a judge make decisions based on the best interests of the child. There is an immediate need for more CASAs in the greater Concord area as cases of child abuse or neglect are on the rise.
For the past 12 years, Mike LaRoche has been volunteering with CASA while working full-time as a busy sales representative. Mike is one of more than 600 CASA advocates across the state who volunteer to speak up for the best interests of victimized children in New Hampshire’s court system.
“My work as a CASA volunteer has become such a significant part of my life that it is like the third leg of a stool—it keeps me balanced,” Mike says. According to Mike, volunteering as a CASA advocate has created some very busy days, but has actually reduced the stress he feels in his work and personal life. “When you see a child who is abused or neglected, your own problems just don’t seem so bad. You realize how incredibly blessed you are,” he comments.
Like Mike, one third of CASA of NH’s volunteer advocates also hold a full-time job, while another third work part-time. After comprehensive training, a volunteer typically devotes 10-15 hours per month on their case(s). This work includes getting to know the child or children on the case; speaking regularly with important people in the child’s life; and writing court reports, attending court hearings, and speaking to a judge about the child’s progress.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, everything from training to some court appearances is taking place virtually. CASA volunteers who work full-time say the most important thing is to have some flexibility in your schedule. As long as you have the freedom to shape your workday, even if only a handful of times per year, you attend court hearings, it is possible to combine full-time work with a rewarding experience as a CASA volunteer advocate.
“One of the beauties of CASA, and what makes it a manageable volunteer opportunity, is that the volunteer has complete control over what kind of case to take, how many cases to take, and the location of the court to serve,” explains Erin Hiley Sharp, an associate professor at the University of New Hampshire and a six-year volunteer with CASA.
To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer while working, attend a live virtual information session where you will hear from CASA staff and volunteers about this vital role and have the opportunity to get your questions answered. Sign up today at www.casanh.org/virtual-info-sessions/.