To the editor:
You may have seen billboards with a photo of a large-eyed toddler and the messages, “Be the difference.” “Help an abused or neglected child.” “Be a CASA volunteer.”
To be honest, I probably would never have signed up for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) training if these billboards had been my only connection to the program; heartstring appeals aren’t my thing. However, becoming a CASA volunteer is one of the best choices I’ve ever made. The longer I serve, the more excited I become about the impact of CASA volunteers in our community.
As a CASA, I spend anywhere from two to fifteen hours per week on a wide variety of self-directed tasks, including visiting foster children, attending court hearings, interviewing families and service providers, connecting parties to each other, and writing reports on case progress. I am the advocate—the voice—for the child; this means getting to know the child, but also getting to know their family’s case deeply so that I can speak with confidence about what I believe best for the child’s long-term health and happiness. Because my position is appointed by the court, I am a direct conduit to the judge on the case and my informed opinion carries significant weight when decisions are made. Because I am a volunteer and do not have a large case load, I can become the expert on the needs and situation of each family. And because I have access to nearly unlimited training and support, I can help connect dots and solve issues that could cripple the case (and the child’s wellbeing) otherwise. My very favorite part of this work is when my actions directly dissolve barriers to the progress of the case, helping the child and easing the stress and difficulty of everyone involved. I love seeing anxiety leave faces and peace come in its place.
Consider becoming a CASA if you love children. Or, even if you’re not particularly drawn to children, you love furthering justice and peace. Or if you simply want to challenge yourself and broaden your understanding of your community. You don’t have to be retired (many CASAs have full-time jobs) or have any background in legal matters. All you have to have is the willingness to step in, to learn, and to act.
Fall CASA training begins September 26th. Call Columbia Gorge CASA at 541-386-3468 to learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer.