by Quinci Castleberry, Program Manager, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Yavapai County and Allison Hurtado, Community Outreach Specialist, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
Where is home for a child in foster care?
For most, home is a safe space where you grow, learn and escape the cares of the world, but for children in foster care “home” can be a little tougher to define.
Children who enter the foster care system are removed from their homes and families and will spend, on average, 12 to 24 months in the system before one of four things happen:
- They reunite with their families.
- They turn 18 and age out of the system.
- They are adopted.
- They are placed in a guardianship.
Some children are fortunate enough to remain in the same home during the time they are in foster care, while others will move many times and don’t know where or what to call home. For about 25 percent of our cases, children must be moved to foster homes in other counties, due to a lack of available foster homes in our area. All this movement, combined with changes in caretakers, schools, case managers and other team members, can be devastating.
That is where a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) comes in. CASA volunteers are every day community members who go through thorough background checks and 30 hours of training to learn how to best advocate for children in the foster care system. These volunteer advocates are then appointed by a judge to serve on a case and make it their goal to become an expert on that child and everything he or she has been through. CASA volunteers are often the one constant adult in a child’s life while he or she is in the foster care system. The person, who never changes, consistently shows up when they say they will and knows the child better than anyone else on the team. Mentor, friend and advocate, the CASA volunteer is someone the child can count while so much of the rest of life feels uncertain.
Children with a CASA advocate often spend less time in foster care, are moved around less and perform better in school. All of these benefits help the child establish roots that will be important for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, not every child in foster care gets the benefit of having a CASA advocate. In Yavapai County, there are close to 400 children in foster care and only 68 CASA volunteers to advocate for them. More volunteers are needed to fill this vital role.
Won’t you please consider being that special someone, who helps a child when he or she has no place to call home? Are you able to dedicate 15 to 20 hours a month to make a difference in the life of a vulnerable child? To learn more, please visit CASAofYavapaiCounty.org or call 928-771-3165. All required training is free, and you will be given all the support you need to be successful in your journey as an advocate. Stand up for a child today and make a difference that lasts a lifetime.