Wright County has been rated the third-highest county in the state for reported child abuse and neglect, and some people may ask just why is this. That Wright County has a large number of child abuse and neglect cases can possibly be linked to community awareness, good policing and Court Appointed Child Advocates – CASA.
The Wright County CASA program has been in operation for 5 years, although few people outside the child welfare system are aware of the CASA program and what they do. CASA wants to change that, and that change could start with you. CASA volunteers want more people to understand that children are being abused and neglected all across this country, and that dedicated volunteer child advocates can help to make sure that these children are safe and well cared for in their communities.
According to the CASA website: “Every day in this country, 1,900 children become victims of abuse or neglect, and four of them will die. Every day. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children is a network of 933 community-based programs that recruit, train and support citizen-volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities. Volunteer advocates—empowered directly by the courts—offer judges the critical information they need to ensure that each child’s rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care.”
CASA volunteers will stay in constant contact with children until they are placed in permanent homes or their case is closed.
In order to become a child advocate, each volunteer must complete a mandatory 30-hour pre-service training curriculum. 20 of these hours are spent in training provided in a classroom setting with other new volunteers from across the state, and the local CASA Program Coordinator provides the remainder of the pre-service training one-on-one, or in small groups.
Volunteers receive instruction in the child welfare system, juvenile law and legal procedures, child development, family dynamics, child abuse and neglect issues, interviewing and report writing techniques, advocacy skills and child permanency factors.
After the initial training is completed, volunteers need to maintain an additional 12 hours of training every year. This is a serious commitment to the community’s children, and not one to be taken lightly, as emotionally and physically fragile children depend upon their Advocate to not only negotiate a legal process well beyond their comprehension, but to simply be there to dry the inevitable tears.
Children are extremely loyal individuals and quite often cling to their abusers or neglectful parents, often assuming caretaker rolls, especially if younger siblings are involved; CASA volunteers free these children from such a burdensome situation of responsibilities far beyond their years, freeing them to become what they should be – just plain kids.
In order to become a CASA volunteer it takes hard work, compassion for children, dedication and nerves of steel, if you possess those qualities you may want to consider signing up by contacting the Iowa Child Advocacy Board Local Program Coordinator, Crystal Engstrom, at: 515-824-3023 , or toll free at: 866-923-1088, by Fax: 515-824-3023 or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org