The numbers say it all. America’s foster care system is serving more children than it can handle. Over 650, 000 children are currently in the foster care system, and that number has been steadily rising since 2012. The number of children leaving the system is also declining, and the number of adoptions per year have not changed significantly since the year 2000.
Despite this, the people who work to help these children do not lose hope. Those at the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) and the court system do everything they can to change those numbers. Their job is to reunite children to their parents, or if that is not possible, try to find permanent homes for children in the state’s custody. A DFCS case manager cannot always know everything that they need to know about a child. In an overburdened system with such a large amount of children pouring into foster care, a DFCS case manager may not be able to know the in’s and out’s of each child’s specific needs. But there are some who can help with this need.
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a person who is sent to assist the case of one or more children. They are volunteers trained to help these same children who fall through the cracks, who need an adult who can get to know their case personally. This helps them communicate what is best for the child to the court.
While case managers have special certification and go to school in fields like psychology or social work, a CASA volunteer can come from any walk of life and complete the CASA training program in roughly forty hours. This is a relatively short period of time for the amount of assistance that they can provide for children. For that reason, CASA volunteers are an incredible asset to help the case managers by taking on responsibility and putting their own time and effort into serving a child.
CASAs will work with a child for a year or more until a permanent home is found. They not only help advocate for them in the court system, but also in their personal lives. They help them overcome the difficult times they face in life, often advocating within the community for them.
Children who are in the foster care system were taken because the parents are unable to provide for their basic needs and safety. The most common reason for this is parental neglect, which is when a parent fails to provide for their child’s needs. All too often, this is because of substance abuse. Emotional, sexual, and physical abuse are also reasons for children to be taken from their homes.
These children react very differently to their new situation. There is always fear and confusion. Most of these children are between infancy and the age of 5 years old, but can be as old as 18. They are all in need. They still need financial support and have to go to school. They still have all of the challenges of being a normal child along with the struggle of being in foster care.
CASA Volunteers help children through frightening and uncertain times. They attend meetings with the child’s parents, case manager, court officials, foster parents, school officials, and others. They advocate for them on all fronts. They can help the child overcome their circumstance to live full lives, just as every child deserves.
There is a dire need for more people to be involved in the foster care system, and perhaps one of the best ways a person can do that is by becoming a CASA Volunteer. CASA is always looking for people with a willingness to serve children, and help them to live fulfilling lives. It is a demanding task, and those who take on the challenge will sacrifice a lot. At the end of the day however, it is truly satisfying work. If anyone is considering becoming a CASA Volunteer, or wants to find out more, they can visit www.alcovycasa.org or contact the Executive Director, Lindsay Tyner, at 678.625.1246 or [email protected]
CASA’s official national website: www.casaforchildren.org
Georgia CASA’s official website: www.gacasa.org
National Foster Care Statistics 2014: www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/trends_fostercare_adoption2014.pdf
Georgia CASA’s 2014 Report: www.gacasa.org/docs/FY14%20GaCASA%20Annual%20Report.pdf
CASA’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/CASAforChildren