Voices for CASA Children recently held a two-day “Case-a-Palooza” event, opening cases for 54 foster children to receive necessary advocacy services like their own CASA volunteer to help them fight through the legal process in Arizona.
In a prepared statement, Voices for CASA Children announced that the bi-annual event allows them to review open cases and potentially select a child or siblings to receive the benefit of a court advocate like Court Appointed Special Advocate Karen Coatsworth, of Scottsdale, who was among those who will assist with a new foster child’s court case.
Not every child has a CASA volunteer despite the rising number of children in foster care in Arizona. With an overburdened child welfare system more volunteer advocates are needed. Currently, there are over 12,000 children without a CASA in Maricopa County. Only 1 in 10 foster children have an advocate in the county, according to the press release.
Many participating CASA volunteers have current cases closing if children were successfully placed in permanent homes – either through adoption or reunification with their family. Others are past advocates wishing to begin anew after completing an earlier case.
“As cases are closed or children age out of the system, CASA volunteers must decide if they are ready to commit to a new case. While the work of a child advocate is incredibly rewarding, it can also be difficult. This event gives past CASA volunteers an opportunity to consider their options and reconnect with their CASA community,” said Robin Pearson, Voices for CASA Children executive director.
Court Appointed Special Advocates are trained volunteers assigned to advocate in a child’s best interest as an officer of the court. They visit with the foster child and anyone involved in his or her life, from foster parents to teachers and doctors, serving as “the eyes and ears of the court.”
The volunteers submit a report to the judge before each court hearing with recommendations, and are often the most consistent person in a foster child’s life, focusing their time on one child or family at a time, the press release said.
“These advocates are truly special and dedicated to being a voice for abused and neglected children. There simply aren’t enough volunteers to address this desperate need, so we’re always thrilled when a current CASA volunteer decides to take on a new case or a former advocate returns to help another child,” Ms. Pearson said, noting that children with an advocate assigned to their case are more likely to receive services, spend less time in the child welfare system and are less likely to return to foster care.
The Scottsdale Independent is available for free every Wednesday.