NELA in dire need of volunteer advocates for foster children
MONROE, La. (KNOE) - CASA of Northeast Louisiana says they are in dire need of volunteers. CASA volunteers advocate for children in foster care in the court system.
At the end of June, there were approximately 380 children in foster care and only 110 CASA volunteers.
CASA stands for court-appointed special advocate, and volunteers give a voice for foster care children in court. Sometimes these volunteers are the only stable thing for the kids to rely on during the process.
Volunteers typically see the child they’re serving face-to-face once a month, but the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible.
“As we’re coming out of this pandemic, we find that we are losing a lot of volunteers, a lot of older volunteers that are just not comfortable yet, seeing a child face to face, meeting with collaterals, meeting with the people who are involved with the case, and getting all the information they need. We are in dire need of new volunteers,” said Leslie Bryan, CASA of NELA Community Development Coordinator.
CASA of NELA serves 11 parishes, and they say that they’re seeing an influx of children right now.
It takes five weeks of online training to become a CASA volunteer. Anyone 21 or older with a valid driver’s license can qualify. There’s also a clearance background check with a pre-service interview. Then, the person will complete 30 hours of online training before they are sworn in by a judge and assigned a case.
CASA says they need volunteers from all areas, but they have a harder time finding volunteers in the rural parishes they serve.
“CASA is a court-appointed special advocate for children, children who’ve been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect. We, as an agency, train community volunteers to speak up on behalf of those children in court. A CASA sees their child face to face once a month, they advocate for their needs, educational, medical, mental everything. They speak up for the child’s desires and wants,” Bryan said.
A volunteer must be willing to commit until the case is closed.
Bryan says a child with a court-appointed special advocate is twice as likely to find a safe and permanent home than a child without one.
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