With April 1 marking the beginning of Child Abuse Prevention Month, now is the time to take action to support kids most in need of a caring adult by volunteering as a court-appointed special advocate.
The CASA program, managed locally by the Maricopa County Superior Court, is designed to provide a screened and specially trained advocate for children living in the foster care system by providing a consistent and safe adult presence for them during a difficult time in their life.
Family reunification is always the top objective of a CASA volunteer — who works cooperatively with the Arizona Department of Child Safety, the Juvenile Court and others — when it is safe and appropriate to do so. While that’s not always the case, a stable adult presence for these kids who are in foster care is important to supporting them as they move through the child welfare system.
CASA volunteers are generally assigned to one case at a time to advocate for a child’s best interest in court, in school and in other settings. CASAs spend much of their time getting to know the child and everyone involved in their life — including parents and other family members, foster parents, doctors, therapists, caseworkers and teachers — in order to develop a realistic picture of the child’s unique situation.
CASA volunteers make recommendations to the judge overseeing the child’s case, with the goal of ensuring that the child is safe, and the family is receiving the resources and support needed to be safely reunified.
There is always a need for more CASA volunteers. And CASAs come from all walks of life — no special experience is needed, and training is provided throughout a CASAs tenure. A detailed background check is required, which is conducted by the court.
In Maricopa County, we have 5,200 children who need a CASA volunteer; current volunteers are serving about 1,000 children.
In Maricopa County, there are 675 dedicated CASA volunteers who work to advocate for children as a sworn officer of the court. A CASA’s service not only helps prevent the cycle of child abuse, but also helps children and families thrive.
Our goal is simple: To envision a community where there is no child abuse, no need for a child welfare system and no need for CASA volunteers. Until that is realized, the need for CASAs is great to meet the needs of those kids who are in the system and desperately need help.
To learn more about volunteering with the CASA of Maricopa County, consider attending a virtual CASA Information Session from noon to 1 p.m. on April 7 by registering here: https://voicesforcasachildren.org/events.
For information, visit www.maricopacasa.org.
Editor’s note: Justine D. Grabowsky is the Maricopa County Superior Court’s deputy Juvenile Department administrator and program director for CASA of Maricopa County. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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