Notes from Windward: #62
Life beyond WindwardJoyce talks about her work with CASA
You might think that being part of Windward is an insular experience, in that the Notes almost always reflect how we experience life here. You might also be surprised to find that's not the case at all. We've always thought it a good idea for people to interact with the communities around us in various ways, i.e., Heather is the Volunteer Coordinator at an art gallery, Cindy teaches Master Food Preservation for the County and volunteers at the County Fair, and both Walt and I have been members and officers on the Boards of several non-profit organizations.
I've always been interested in the plight of abused and/or neglected children and recently completed training to become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) and been assigned my first case. A CASA is a volunteer advocate appointed by a Judge to thoroughly investigate a neglected or abused child's world, talking with everyone who is important to that child, then representing the child in court and speaking for the child and their bests interests. The importance of the CASA volunteer is that they answer to no one because they are not employees of an agency or government entity. My only focus is the welfare of the child.
The children I represent are all at-risk. Some are in foster homes, but most have been thrown into the court system because their parents are abusive or neglectful and the court is deciding if they will stay with their parents. Many times, the parents have substance abuse problems as well as emotional or mental health issues. Because CASA is a named party to court proceedings, I have full access to all information (on both parents and children) in the court system, social service agencies, doctors, hospitals, therapists, schools, and any records that are subject to a subpoena. That's a lot of power, but it's also a mountain of responsibility.
I bring things to the attention of the court that may effect the child. For instance, if the court directed social services to arrange training, testing, or counseling for the parents, and they have not, I let the court know. If the child's teacher reports that the parents have not followed up on needed tutoring, I report that to the court as well. Prior to any hearing, I prepare a report for the court detailing my contacts, observations, and recommendations. I also attend the hearing in case the Judge has any questions.
Being a CASA is a time-consuming "job" but one I've found to be quite rewarding. CASA is a nation-wide program looking for volunteers who want to be of service to your community. If you have questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.