At the age of six, Pamela and her sister spent cold nights sleeping in the back of a U-Haul with no blankets. They didn’t know when they would eat. One night, Pamela’s mother awoke the girls suddenly and yelled at them to hide under a car in the parking lot. When a police officer pulled Pamela from her hiding place, she watched as her parents were arrested. She remembers watching as the police car left and her mother “faded away.” This is how Pamela became a foster child.
Fortunately, a CASA volunteer was assigned to be a voice for Pamela. “When you’re a child, no one listens to you, especially in the foster care system.” Pamela describes her CASA volunteer as “a light at the end of the tunnel. She was everything in my life – I didn’t have anybody.”
“To give a child a CASA is to give them a voice.
To give them a voice is to give them hope.
And to give them hope is to give them the world.”
– Pamela Butler, former foster youth
Like Pamela, many children here in our community have been removed from their homes at no fault of their own due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. All children deserve a forever family, yet too often abused children remain adrift in a foster care system too overworked and underfunded to pay close attention to each child whose life is in its hands.
That’s where CASA comes in.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. Capital Area CASA Association serves East Baton Rouge Parish and trains community volunteers to advocate for these children. CASA volunteers represent the best interests of abused children during juvenile court and child protection proceedings. The CASA volunteer serves as an independent voice to speak solely for the child.
CASA volunteers get to know the child and talk with everyone involved in the child’s life to gather facts about the child’s history and current situation. Using this information, the volunteer submits recommendations in a report to the juvenile court judge.
Since most CASA recommendations are accepted by the court, children with CASA volunteers are more likely to find safe, permanent homes and spend less time in foster care. Not only do CASA volunteers work toward placing these children into permanent homes, but they also ensure that children’s needs are being met while in foster care.
In 2013, 124 volunteers provided a voice for 288 children, and 152 children reached permanent homes with assistance from CASA. Capital Area CASA strives to provide an advocate for every child who needs one, and volunteers are always needed to achieve this goal. No special background is required – CASA provides training and support every step of the way. Volunteers typically spend 10-15 hours per month on their advocacy work.
The first step to becoming a volunteer is to attend a 45-minute orientation session. Now is a great time to attend orientation, as the next training class begins March 25.
Upcoming CASA Orientation Dates
All sessions take place at the CASA office, 848 Louisiana Ave.
Thursday, Feb. 20 @ 12:00 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 25 @ 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 8 @ 10:00 a.m.
Wednesday, March 12 @ 12:00 p.m.
Jennifer Mayer joined the Capital Area CASA staff in June 2013 as recruitment coordinator. She is a Baton Rouge native and holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Georgia. She oversees all marketing/PR functions at CASA in order to recruit enough volunteers for CASA to serve every child who needs a voice. To contact Jennifer, call CASA at (225) 379-8598 or email [email protected]