For many of us, Valentine’s Day is our chance to show our affection for the important people in our lives, but candy and cards will be the last thing on the minds of many of the children in the foster care system who will be facing this special day far away from their families, friends and other loved ones.
When a family is in crisis and a child is placed in the child welfare system, they often live in a foster home outside of their home community. Though they have done nothing to deserve it, they face challenges and unforeseen consequences as a result of being in foster care. They tend to move from placement to placement and school to school, running the risk of losing touch with the family, friends and mentors in their lives.
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers advocate for these children, ensure they are safe and cared for, and work hard to keep them connected with their communities, families and loved ones while they are in foster care and beyond.
“Studies show that one of the key indicators for child well-being is the number of committed adults in their lives,” said Suzanne Hughes, executive director of CASA for Children. “In addition to speaking up for the children’s best interests in court, our CASA volunteers can play an integral part in making sure they maintain positive relationships with their families, friends, mentors and home communities in whatever ways possible.”
CASA volunteers are everyday people who are appointed by a judge to advocate on behalf of a child or sibling group in the foster care system.
“Foster care can be scary, lonely and uncertain for children, especially when they are placed far away from everything and everyone they know,” Hughes said. “CASA volunteers advocate for these children in court, school and other settings, building a positive relationship with them while helping to keep them connected and reminding them that they are not alone.”
CASA volunteers get to know the child on a personal level and communicate with everyone involved in their life including family members, foster parents, social workers, teachers and many others. They work with all parties on the case to build and strengthen a lifetime network of committed adults who will support the child, and each other, even after the child’s time in foster care ends.
“CASA volunteers advocate first and foremost for reunification with the child’s family of origin, with the child’s safety as the first priority,” Hughes said. “When reunification is not safe or possible, they work to place the child with other family or in a caring adoptive home.”
Last year, 119 CASA volunteers served 339 children in the foster care system throughout the three-county area served by CASA for Children, but there are many children still in need of a volunteer to advocate for their best interests.
“Every child deserves to feel loved, supported and connected this Valentine’s Day and beyond,” Hughes said. “Become a CASA volunteer and help give a child and family a better chance at a brighter, happier future.”
For more information, visit the CASA website at www.casaok.org or contact Jenny Crosby via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (918) 686-8199.
Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer
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