By Samantha Ludeking, Driftless Journal Production Manager
CASA advocates are ordinary people who care about children. They volunteer their time and talents to help make sure that children who have experienced abuse or neglect aren’t negatively affected by the state system intended to protect them.
Iowa CASA is affiliated with the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) Association for Children, which, together with its state and local members, supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that every child in crisis can be safe, establish permanence and have the opportunity to thrive.
Kerry Brennan, CASA Program Coordinator and CAMS Specialist reported there is an urgent need for CASA advocates in northeast Iowa. “We need volunteers in this area to join us in supporting children in the foster care system by becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). Make a difference in a child’s life by providing them with a voice in court and advocating for their best interests.”
What does a CASA volunteer do?
CASA volunteers advocate for children who are in Iowa’s child welfare system due to abuse and/or neglect. They are assigned one case at a time, focusing solely on that one child or sibling group and their family. CASA volunteers provide a consistent presence in a child’s life. They visit their assigned child or sibling group at least once a month, interact with others involved in the case, and write reports for the juvenile judge. CASA volunteers stay with the child for the duration of the case, advocating for their needs to be met.
“This program was started by a district judge in 1976 who saw there was a need for more advocacy for the children affected by these cases. The reports provided by the CASA volunteers are 100 percent read and taken into consideration by the judges. It helps them know the childrens’ interests are being represented,” added Brennan.
“Historically, we see a big increase in case referrals when school begins. Currently we have four case referrals for children in your area who really need a CASA,” said Brennan.
Anyone interested in becoming a CASA should contact Brennan at 515-725-5350 or 563-568-1049. Please leave a message if the call is not answered immediately. Anyone can go online to https://iowachildadvocacymatch.com/csp/icasa/scrVolunteerAppPublicPreScreen.csp to fill out a pre-screening application to begin the volunteer process as well.
Brennan also added, “Even if you know of anyone who would make a good advocate, please refer them to us. Our goal is to have a CASA for every child who needs one. Right now, we just don’t have enough volunteers.”
For more information, visit the Iowa Child Advocacy Board website at childadvocacy.iowa.gov, or nationalcasagal.org, or call their main information line at 866-448-4608.