On Tuesday, November 1, Central Georgia CASA celebrated 25 years of helping our community’s children . Judges, organizers, and advocates gathered at the Thomas Jackson Juvenile Justice Center to talk about the impact of CASA on children, families, and our community.
When a child must go through the foster care system, it can often be overwhelming and stressful. That’s where Central Georgia CASA comes in to help. CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, is a team a volunteers whose goal is to support children through that process.
“Our volunteers are vital to the foster care process to speak up for our children,” said CASA Executive Director Susanna Patterson. “We want people to know about the work we do and how it helps our young people navigate some of the most difficult times of their lives. We’re proud to have helped 157 kids this past year, and hundreds more over the past 25 years.”
CASA volunteers are sworn in through the juvenile court system and meet with their assigned child at least once a month, as well as the child’s doctors, teachers, case workers, foster parents, and often their biological parents to make sure the child’s needs are being met. They also prepare written and oral reports to present to the courts. The goal is to make sure that child is receiving the care they need.
This past summer, Central Georgia CASA was one of 25 recipients of the first round of Macon Violence Prevention (MVP) grants. It received $25,000 to recruit, train, and support more volunteers for children 12 years of age and older.
“We need to focus on our youth ages 12 or older, but that’s the area where we have the fewest volunteers,” said Patterson. “Thanks to the Macon Violence Prevention program, we will be able to focus outreach and training efforts to expand our volunteer network, focusing on this group of children that need us the most.”
Anyone can be a volunteer, but Peterson says they are looking for people with a heart for children, are not afraid to ask the hard questions, and are ready to advocate for a child’s best interests. All volunteers go through a five-session training and ten hours of observation at Juvenile Court.
Retired educators and nurses make great volunteers, and they are especially in need of men as volunteers. Of the 50 volunteers currently working with CASA, only 4 are men. The time commitment is 10-15 hours per month, mostly from phone calls and checking on case work. They ask that the volunteer meet with the child or children in person at least once per month.
“Our volunteers are focused on getting children back with parents or a permanent home, as well as graduating high school,” said Patterson. “Kids with volunteers do better in school, have better home stability, and are better behaved in and out of school.”
Patterson says they’re always looking for volunteers and the only requirements are to be at least 21 years old, and have a heart for children. To sign up to be a volunteer, contact Central Georgia CASA at (478) 954-7871 or Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit https://www.cgcasa.org/volunteer/apply-now/ to apply.
About the Macon Violence Prevention Grants
More than $800,000 is being given to 25 nonprofit and faith-based organizations to put in place programs and efforts to reduce violent crime; each goal they are trying to meet was made by the nearly 2,000 people through forums and surveys on what our neighborhoods need. Those outcomes are outlined in the MVP Strategic Plan, and the full list of organizations and programs can be found by clicking here.
“The solution to violent crime in our community will be found in all of us working together on the same team,” explained Mayor Lester Miller. “The fact that more than 50 organizations came to the table with good ideas and applied for MVP grants shows that the people of our community are committed to this historic effort. If we continue to work together, we will create a safer, stronger community now and for future generations.”
Macon Violence Prevention is an evidence-based, multifaceted program created to address public safety in Macon-Bibb County. Supported and funded by the consolidated government, MVP is a community-wide effort that brings together elected officials, community leaders, agencies, organizations, and departments.
The MVP program operates under the guidance of the MVP Strategic Plan, which was introduced in June of 2021. Created by community stakeholders and violent crime experts, this strategic plan combines data and research with community feedback to implement proven solutions that reduce violent crime and strengthen the community over time.