Columbia Gorge CASA Welcomes New Volunteers

JUDGE PAUL CROWLEY welcomes new volunteers to the Columbia Gorge CASA, from left, Lisa Kidd, Norma Cordry, Zipporah Underhill, Rhonday Morrow, Crystal Dickenson and Michelle Mayfield. Contributed photo

HOOD RIVER — Columbia Gorge CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) recently welcomed its newest child advocates: Crystal Dickenson, Home Valley; Lisa Kidd and Michelle Mayfield, White Salmon; Rhonda Morrow, Fossil; Zipporah Underhill, The Dalles; and Norma Cordry, Hood River.

They were sworn into duty by Circuit Judge Paul G. Crowley on March 20. These new advocates join a cadre of over 77,000 trained child advocates who serve more than 234,000 neglected and abused children nationwide.

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in overburdened legal and social service systems or languish In inappropriate group or foster homes.

Columbia Gorge CASA serves Hood River, Wasco and Sherman counties; advocates serve children in care so that they might have the chance to live and develop in a safe, nurturing environment.

Judges often have to make difficult decisions regarding the best interests of children and they find the information and observations that CASA volunteers bring to the attention of the court invaluable in making those decisions.

Since children involved in the juvenile dependency court generally do not appear before the judge in person, CASA volunteers are often referred to as “the presence of the absent: the voice of the child.”

CASA advocacy offers several key benefits:

• Children with a CASA are half as likely to spend time in long-term foster care;

• Fewer than 10 percent of children with a CASA re-enter the foster care system; and

• CASA volunteers spend most of their volunteer time in contact with a child; to a child that means a consistent and caring adult presence in his or her life.

CASAs are able to advocate for half of our communities’ children in need, but the other half is still waiting. All volunteers receive 32 hours of pre-service training using the National CASA Volunteer Training Curriculum, and 12 hours in-service training per year.

New advocate training sessions will begin in May 2014.

To learn more, contact Susan Baldwin, advocate manager, at 541-386-3468.

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