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TWBP: CASA Resolved to Help Our Community’s Youth

From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWBP (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.

"CASA"

A CASA class. (Courtesy CASA)

Happy New Year! It is time for resolutions, and why not make one this year that helps our community and doesn’t involve a gym membership you won’t be using by May? If you have time to volunteer, I’d like to recommend CASA of DC.

CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in the DC Foster Care system. I’ve been volunteering with CASA for two years and it’s been a wonderful experience. Interested volunteers receive training through CASA and are then appointed to a case by a DC Family Court Judge.

CASA’s definition of the job of a volunteer is “to represent the best interest of a foster care child. CASAs gather information about each child’s situation, submit reports to the court, make recommendations and provide the court with valuable insight into the child’s life. CASAs provide the positive, stable adult presence these youth and children so desperately need.”

The training sessions are typically two weeks long, four evenings a week for about three hours. If a volunteer completes training and is approved by CASA, he or she will then be sworn in by a DC Family Court Judge and assigned to a case. The CASA organization works hard to match volunteers with a foster child, and takes each volunteer’s unique skills and the child’s specific situation into close consideration. Volunteers are typically matched with one child and are expected to make a one year commitment.

The next CASA training will begin on Monday, January 28. Training sessions are held Monday through Thursday evenings (6-9pm) for 2 weeks (a total of eight sessions). Please contact Michael Parsons at mparsons@casadc.org if you are interested in becoming an advocate.

According to CASA, there are over 1,400 cases currently in the DC Family Court system. I feel strongly that this one of the best ways a caring adult can give back to the community and make a significant positive impact in the life of a child. For that reason, I also feel that volunteers should be ready to commit to more than one year if necessary.

In a perfect situation no foster child would be in the system for longer than a year, but unfortunately that is not the case. The more stability you can provide by being a constant in the life of the child you are working with, the better. My CASA youth’s case should be resolved this spring and my official role as CASA volunteer will end, but I plan to remain part of her support system if she and her family so wish.

After the initial training, volunteers need to complete twelve hours of continuing education each year. Monthly newsletters provide information about where and when you can attend seminars to meet this requirement. I have found these to be informative sessions that have really helped me to better understand the foster care system and how I can serve my youth.

Once volunteers are matched with a foster child, they are expected to spend about ten hours a month with the child, and complete a quick online account of this time by the 5thof every month. Depending upon the requirements of the specific case, you can expect to attend court hearings three or four times a year, at which time you will need to complete a court report, expressing the wants and needs of the child and any recommendations you might have.

I have found volunteering with CASA to be a very rewarding experience. I hope a few of you reading this will consider giving your time to this wonderful organization. CASA welcomes all kinds of community members, and is especially in need of male advocates and mentors at this time.

This year, instead of beating yourself up about those five extra pounds you want to lose, resolve to spend a few hours each week changing the life of a child.

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- who has written 20 posts on Borderstan.

Jones has been in DC since 2005 and has lived in Borderstan since 2007. A former middle school teacher, Leslie is now enjoying her new life as a mom. She loves taking long walks with her daughter and discovering things about her neighborhood from a new perspective. Email Leslie at leslie[AT]borderstan.com

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