This February, Black History Month, CASA for Children recognizes the positive difference Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers of color have made to children placed in the foster care system.
“These volunteers are not mentioned in the history books, but they make a huge difference in the lives of abused and neglected children in the foster care system,” said Suzanne Hughes, Executive Director of CASA for Children.
CASA volunteers are ordinary citizens of the community who are screened, trained, and then appointed by a judge to advocate for a child’s best interests in court. Volunteers give their time, energy and compassion to create lasting positive change for local children.
“These children have already faced difficult situations and entering the foster care system can be traumatic. But when a child is placed in a culturally different environment, it can be even more difficult,” Hughes said. “They are not just removed from their homes, but removed from their schools, community, place of worship, etc.”
Children served by CASA for Children are under the protection of the State of Oklahoma due to serious risk factors such as child abuse or neglect. Many of these children face major obstacles on their journey to safe and permanent homes, often changing schools and foster care placements multiple times. Every child deserves individual advocacy regarding their best interests, and that’s where CASA comes in.
“We need more culturally sensitive volunteers who can help foster parents with issues a child is facing and who can be positive role models for children in care,” Hughes said.
CASA volunteers get to know the child or children they represent by talking with the child and all the people in the child’s life, such as parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, health professionals, lawyers, social workers and others. They collect information to help judges and other professionals make critical decisions about meeting each child’s needs, with the goal of determining the best permanent outcomes for those children.
Most importantly, the CASA volunteer gets to know the child, often becoming one of the most consistent adults in the child’s life. “CASA’s involvement helps children have more hope while helping to improve outcomes for children,” Hughes explained. “These improved outcomes can include safety, tenure, academic achievement, general well-being, increased self-control, positive social relationships, and optimism.”
Become a CASA volunteer and defend a child who needs you. CASA for Children is currently accepting applications for its next initial training which will begin online in March 2022. Volunteers from all cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds are welcome. For more information or to complete an application, visit www.casaok.org or call Jenny Crosby at (918) 685-1501.