More than 1,700 children in our community are in the foster care system.
I had a hard time believing the Kids Count 2012 stat — even as the director of CASA for Douglas County.
But it’s true.
Your child and mine are attending school with children that are entangled in this system every day.
How does this happen?
Many of these children have suffered abuse and/or neglect at the hands of trusted adults. Children may be removed from their homes and this is where the Court Appointed Special Advocates (or CASA) becomes involved.
CASA is a 95-percent volunteer run non-profit agency that serves abused and neglected children placed in the foster care system. Our mission is to be the “voice of the child” and advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children who fall under the jurisdiction of the Douglas County Juvenile Court and foster care system, through the use of screened, trained, and supervised citizen volunteers.
We are a non-profit organization operating with a meager staff of six; however we boast a large, amazingly committed volunteer corps of more than 100 individuals from all walks of life.
CASA Volunteers are not your everyday volunteer. They must apply, interview, pass a background check, attend 30 hours of training and be sworn in by a juvenile court judge to begin their work. Volunteers fill a critical service gap by conducting independent research and investigations about the child’s case, presenting fact-based reports with recommendations to the judge regarding placement and case plans to allow a child’s case to advance forward.
They get to know the children by personally visiting them to ensure that their needs are met – physically, educationally, and psychologically — and that each child is receiving services that will allow him or her to thrive. As one CASA volunteer put it, “we are the wisdom of the community.”
The children they help are just as amazing.
Gloryanna, for instance, returns to the program a couple times a year to speak to incoming volunteers. She shares her story and how important their relationship is to a child. One of the opportunities she received from the program came after our annual fundraising race. She won a trip to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro — the country’s highest mountain. Read more about the race here.
Joe is another amazing child in the CASA program. He was awarded a full-ride scholarship to University of Nebraska at Omaha with the help of his CASA volunteer who practiced the ACT test with him weekly.
And then there’s Julie, whose CASA mentor tutored her twice a week for three to four months. She was two grade levels behind, but with the extra help was able to become a self-confident and successful student who now aspires to be on her school’s Honor Roll.
Another story that comes to mind was the family that had three children separated through the foster care system. Three of the children had been adopted, but the fourth was still in foster care. Because of multiple placements and age differences, the children had never had a visit with all siblings present. During our annual holiday party, one of our CASA volunteers made it possible for all four children to be together.
We know there are more great people who can advocate for these children.
Is it you?
Kimberly Thomas, executive director of CASA for Douglas County, wrote this guest blog for momaha.com
Photo: The pictures are from National Adoption Day and an art class that held at CASA just last month. A local artist worked with 4 and 5 years olds to make fans.
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BE A HERO
JOIN CASA’S SUPERHERO RUN
8 a.m. Saturday
Turner Park at Midtown Crossing
Dress up like your favorite superhero.
Join momaha’s team for CASA’s benefit Superhero 5.8K run or 1K children’s run. The 1K will be held inside the park with various children’s activities. Register: runtobenefitcasa.com
Read more about the race, by clicking here.
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