This past Tuesday, January 17, the newest cohort of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) began their five-week training to give children in foster care a voice of their own. This newest cohort was nine people with a diversity of age, race, backgrounds, and experience, and it’s the largest class they’ve ever trained. The training runs for five weeks with volunteers attending most sessions via Zoom, completing online course work, and observing court cases prior to certification.
“We were proud to have so many people in the class, including two men,” says Jennifer Askew, Central Georgia CASA Outreach & Development Coordinator, noting they have not had men in a cohort in more than a year. “Even better, one of them is interested in helping older male children, which is our hardest demographic to get matched with a volunteer.”
This program is supported by a Macon Violence Prevention grant from Macon-Bibb County and the Community Foundation of Central Georgia. 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.
CASAs 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 commitment takes about 10-15 hours per month.
“A CASA gives the child a voice, and the courts can tell a difference when there is and isn’t a CASA involved,” says Askew.
“Training on Tuesday went great,” said CASA Executive Director Susanna Patterson. “Caring, committed individuals becoming CASA Volunteers is critical to the future of our community’s most vulnerable children. By providing quality advocacy to children and youth experiencing foster care, CASA Volunteers can help ensure that children and families receive the services and supports they need to thrive.”
The next cohort starts in late February or early March. To volunteer, you must be 21 years or older, and be able to pass a background check. The only requirement otherwise is to be compassionate and ready to help. To sign up, or learn more about the program, visit CGCASA.org.
“All you really need to be good at this is to care for children, and you will make a real difference in their life,” adds Askew.
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.