On Wednesday, March 8, seven new volunteers were sworn in as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to support and help youth moving through the foster care system. They were sworn in by Judge Thomas Matthews after completing a five-week training course supported by a Macon Violence Prevention (MVP) grant from Macon-Bibb County and the Community Foundation of Central Georgia (CFCG). Volunteers attended weekly classes via Zoom, completed online course work, and observed court cases prior to certification.
“We have focused heavily on getting more volunteers to help with teenagers in the foster system and this cohort has allowed us to expand that,” says Jennifer Askew. “It’s also great to swear in seven new volunteers since some cohorts have only had one or two go through.”
CASAs, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, are sworn in through the foster care 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 meet with DFCS, the court system, and other agencies to support the child, and prepare written and oral reports to present to the courts. The goal is to make sure that child is receiving the support and care they need. This commitment takes about 10-15 hours per month.
“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.”
People interested in having a major and positive impact on the life of a child can sign up for the next training cohort, which begins April 4. To sign up to be a volunteer, contact Central Georgia CASA at (478) 954-7871 or Jennifer.email@example.com. You can also visit https://www.cgcasa.org/volunteer/apply-now/ to apply. They are also currently hiring for two new positions: Volunteer Coordinator and Development and Outreach Coordinator.
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.
“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.”
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. Anyone can be a volunteer, but Patterson 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.firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit https://www.cgcasa.org/volunteer/apply-now/ to apply.