Columbia Gorge CASA welcomes new volunteers

Columbia Gorge CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is happy to introduce their newest child advocates: Erin Weedman, Sherman County; Kit Malley and Tori Mills, Hood River County; and Toni Ibarra, Vandie Benson and Lisa Fuller from White Salmon, who were sworn in by the Honorable Paul G. Crowley on November 15, 2012. These new advocates join a cadre of child advocates who serve our neglected and abused children in Hood River, Wasco and Sherman counties.

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Ideally volunteers advocate for their CASA children until their court cases close and the children are placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA volunteer will be the single constant adult presence in their lives.

Judges benefit from the fresh perspective brought to these cases by people not obligated to an agency, or bringing a professional point of view to court. Caseworkers and attorneys typically have large case loads and limited time to devote to each case. CASAs usually have one or at most two cases on which to focus. Since the children in these cases generally do not appear before the judge in person, CASA volunteers are often referred to as “the presence of the absent: the voice of the child.”

A few key benefits of CASA advocacy include:

n Children with a CASA are half as likely to spend time in long-term foster care (three years or more);

n Cases involving a CASA are more likely to remain permanently closed;

n Fewer than 10% of children with a CASA re-enter the foster care system;

n CASA volunteers spend most of their volunteer time in contact with a child (CASAs can give each child’s case the sustained, personal attention he or she deserves). To a child, that means a consistent and caring adult presence in his or her life; and

n CASA advocacy saves taxpayer dollars. If the median length of stay were shortened for children in foster care by just one month, it would realize a national savings to taxpayers of approximately $2.75 billion (National CASA; www.casaforchildren.org).

We are able to advocate for half of our communities’ children in need, but the other half is still waiting — for you. New advocate training sessions will begin in January, 2013. If you are interested in learning more about the CASA program please contact Susan Baldwin, Advocate Manager, at 541-386-3468 or 541-993-9506.

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