CASA Volunteers advocate for children in foster care

by | Jun 24, 2022 | Community News, News

Central Georgia Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) just began another round of training for future volunteers. These amazing and loving members of our community will eventually work with DFCS, the court system, and other agencies to support children in foster care. They will be the advocates for the children in the system to make sure they are getting the support and services they need.   

“Our volunteers really get a chance to know these children, providing a real value to our entire system,” says CASA Executive Director Susanna Patterson, pointing out they are the advocates for the children in court decisions, bringing information directly to the judges. “Our judges love them and the information and perspective they bring.”   

“If we’re going to prevent future crime, we need to start earlier and earlier…making sure our children are supported, are loved, and are the center of our worlds,” says Macon-Bibb Mayor Lester Miller. “With Central Georgia CASA, we can connect the most loving people in our community with the children who need them the most.” 

Patterson says children in foster care are often in new homes, new schools, new situations, and more, and the volunteers provide a sense of stability and normalcy throughout the process. They are a constant in the children’s lives, helping make sure they are not lost. She says there’s a direct linkage between being in foster care and later participation in the criminal justice system. 70-80% of the prison population nationally is made up of people who were in foster care, and by age 17, more than half of youth in the system have an arrest conviction or overnight stay in a correctional facility. 

“We will be focusing on the children we know absolutely need our services. If we look into the future to see which children need us the most, this is that group,” says CASA Executive Director Susanna Patterson.  

It was announced on Tuesday, June 14 that Central Georgia CASA was one of 25 recipients of the first round of Macon Violence Prevention (MVP) grants. It will be getting $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,” says 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.” 

All volunteers go through a five-session training and ten hours of observation at Juvenile Court. 

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. 

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 3 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,” says Patterson. “Kids with volunteers do better in school, have better home stability, and are better behaved in and out of school.”

To sign up to be a volunteer, contact Central Georgia CASA at (478) 954-7871 or Jennifer.askew@cgcasa.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. 

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