"There is a hole in Daddy's arm where all the money goes."
This disturbing line is from the tragic song "Sam Stone" by John Prine. It is all the more heart-wrenching in that it is a child speaking. It is from a child's perspective. What must the home life of a child be like that it would engender such a revelation? To get to that point, many other things must have already been lost down that "hole." Lost is that child's innocence, sense of security and hope. Tragically, many children right here in South Lake Tahoe wake every morning facing similarly disturbing circumstances. At some point those circumstances cross a line and become neglect or abuse. Did they go to bed hungry? Did they do their homework? Do they have clean decent clothes to put on for school? Is someone packing them a lunch? Do they feel threatened? Do they think their situation is the "norm?" Does anyone care? Does anyone notice?
In the case of a CASA kid, someone did notice. It may have been a mandated reporter such as a school teacher, counselor or administrator. It could have been a concerned family friend or neighbor. In most cases the child and their situation are noticed when law enforcement has gotten involved because of something a parent has done. It could be drug abuse, alcohol abuse, physical abuse or a combination thereof, by the parent that gets "the system" involved. But as soon as the parent is in the court system the child enters the Dependency Court system.
From a child's perspective (even one in a neglectful or abusive situation), being "noticed" by the system does not necessarily restore a sense of security or re-instill lost hope (innocence is gone forever). The child finds himself or herself in the unfamiliar and scary situation of having strangers getting involved in the intimate details of their lives. Once involved in Dependency Court, the child is now dealing with law enforcement, social workers, attorneys and judges. It is confusing and frustrating. They may be removed from their home because the conditions there have been deemed unacceptable.
From a child's perspective, even with all the new people in their lives, it can be a very lonely existence. That is where CASA steps in. A CASA is a Court Appointed Special Advocate, a trained volunteer who becomes an Officer of the Court. They are appointed to the child's case by a judge to become the court's eyes and ears. A CASA becomes an advocate for the best interests of the child. By spending time with the child, meeting with parents, teachers and counselors along with reading court related documents, the CASA obtains an intimate knowledge of the child and their circumstances. With all this knowledge the CASA is able to become the voice of that child in the court system.
From a child's perspective, a CASA provides a consistent, stable and, most importantly, dependable person in their otherwise uncertain lives. The child can gain back a bit of security in the fact that the CASA is on their side and is there for them. Having a CASA may start re-instilling some of that lost hope to the child. A CASA can go a long way in filling that "hole" which tragic circumstances has left in a child's life. A CASA can change a child's perspective.
CASA needs more volunteers. There are children right now waiting for a CASA to be assigned to them by the court. You could be that CASA. There is a real need for male CASA volunteers. The ladies continue to step up to the plate big time. It is time for more guys to do the same along with the ladies. The next CASA training starts in March. For information, call Amanda or Alexis at the South Lake Tahoe office of CASA El Dorado, 530-573-3072.