There are many reasons to become a Court Appointed Special Advocates volunteer. For this column I will present five. An arbitrary number, but it sounded about right.
The most obvious (and rewarding) reason to become a CASA volunteer is to lend a much needed helping hand to a child in need. A CASA child can be a newborn up to a teenager. No matter the age, a CASA kid is in a vulnerable and uncertain time in their life. By advocating for that child you are providing a dependable and steady presence in an otherwise turbulent life. You will have an immediate and significant affect on a child's life right from the time you say "Hello my name is _____ and I am going to be your CASA worker. I am here to help."
You'll be helping your community. You've heard the expression "It takes a village." Well, when a child becomes involved in the family court system a sort of "village" is mobilized in the community to help. There are teachers, counselors, social workers, attorneys, judges, law enforcement and, yes, sometimes probation officers and juvenile hall staff that are involved in a CASA child's life. These professionals have many kids and/or cases or charges in their lives. Your intimate knowledge of the different aspects of your CASA child's life will help all this community to better help the child. The community will depend on you and you can see that your CASA child can depend on the community.
You'll be helping society at large. This one is a little out there and not so quantifiable but still pertinent. We have all seen the commercials where someone is shown helping a stranger. They pick up a dropped package, they let the busy mother go ahead of them in line or give up a parking space to another driver, etc. The commercial also shows someone observing this act of kindness. The commercial ends with the observer "paying forward" an act of kindness to another stranger. The cycle continues and society is the better for it. People around you will "observe" that you are a CASA volunteer. They will see that you are taking time out of your life to help a stranger. It will make them think about your act of kindness and just maybe it will motivate them to do the same.
You will be learning. We all hear that we should continue to learn new things throughout our lives. Well, becoming a CASA volunteer certainly fits the bill. First you will go through the initial CASA training class. There you will learn about the family and dependency court system and all the agencies and players involved. You will learn about child abuse and neglect. You will gain knowledge of the different forms of addiction. You will learn how to write a report to the court objectively summarizing what is happening in your CASA child's life and rendering an opinion on what should be happening. After this class you will be sworn in by the court and become an officer of the court. Then you can be assigned a case and you will learn all about your CASA child's individual case. The learning continues as your child's case works it way through the court system. As the wheels of court system grind along you may also find yourself having to learn more about patience. There is no doubt that becoming a CASA volunteer will keep you learning.
My fifth reason is simple: Being a CASA volunteer is good for your soul. Sure, the main reason you become a volunteer is to help your fellow man but the truth is it also does wonders for you. We all want to feel like we are making a difference, that we are doing something significant with our lives. If you want to make a difference and do it in a significant way, I can think of no better reason to make the effort then to help a child in need.
To learn more about being a CASA volunteer, visit www.casaeldorado.org.