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Opinion: CASA volunteers are special group caring for our children
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A family takes advantage of the visitation room at the Court-Appointed Special Advocates office Thursday in Gainesville. Hall-Dawson CASA served more than 500 children last year. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

These are the words Judge Joe R. Diaz shares with new Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers when he swears in the class, just before the CASA volunteer is appointed to a child or sibling. 

A CASA volunteer, appointed by a juvenile court judge, provides the court with the comprehensive and objective information the court needs to make the most well-informed decisions and help ensure positive outcomes for children and youth.  

CASA volunteers take the time to get to know the child at the heart of each case. They also work in collaboration with legal and child welfare professionals, educators and service providers to ensure that the child has what he or she needs to heal.

A child in foster care may have faced physical, psychological and/or emotional trauma only to endure long periods of uncertainty in the child welfare system as they wait to go home, be adopted or simply see what happens next. But having a caring, consistent adult — someone who listens, checks in and puts the child’s best interest before all others — can make all the difference.

Our volunteers are people, from all walks of life, who have been rigorously screened and trained extensively by the Hall-Dawson CASA program. Volunteers receive more than 30 hours of training before they work with a child, with an additional 12 hours of continuing education required annually. 

Last year, 99 CASA volunteers advocated for 365 children in our community.

CASA volunteers are not your typical volunteer. We know that and are so pleased to join with CASA programs across the nation on May 18 to celebrate CASA Volunteer’s Day. We are thankful to the Hall County Board of Commissioners and the Gainesville mayor and City Council for proclaiming May 18, 2021, as CASA Volunteer’s Day to celebrate the unique service these extraordinary volunteers provide in our community.

Each day, I am so personally grateful to be surrounded by some of those helpers who Mr. Rogers describes — those who stand in the gap between a child’s challenging present and their promising future. I invite you to take the time to find out more about CASA and how you might become part of this extraordinary force of good in our community at www.halldawsoncasa.org.

Janet Walden

Executive director, Hall-Dawson CASA 

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