Court Appointed Special Advocate, CASA, volunteers are a voice for abused and neglected children in courts throughout Nebraska and the United States. Â This area is served by four separate programs: CASA for York County, Fillmore County CASA, CASA of South Central Nebraska (Clay County), and Heartland CASA (Hamilton County). Â CASA volunteers advocate for the children, monitor the case to be sure appropriate services are provided, investigate to assure the childâ€™s safety, and facilitate help for the child with various social services.Â Statistics indicate that children who have a CASA volunteer assigned are half as likely to languish in foster care and instead gain a permanent safe home more quickly.
Fillmore County CASA Director Cathy Wismer says being a CASA volunteer is very rewarding. Â She not only trains and supervises volunteers there but is also a volunteer for the York County CASA program. Â â€œI have thoroughly enjoyed knowing the child I am assigned to, and I look forward to meeting with her a couple times each month.Â The child I am assigned to has had many difficult experiences, yet I see resilience and hope in the choices she makes.Â She has taught me valuable lessons in the way she reacts to challenges.â€
CASA volunteers are appointed by the court to individual children and are given authority to meet with the child and others involved in that case.Â CASA volunteers work closely with the childâ€™s Child Protective Services worker and the attorney for the child. Â They also talk to teachers, therapists, parents, foster parents, siblings, relatives, and anyone else who might be a resource for the child.
Training to be a CASA volunteer requires 30 hours of group and individual study as well as observing court hearings.Â Â After initial training is completed, there are numerous continuing education opportunities available for the required 12 hours/year followup. Volunteers are asked to stay with the program at least 1 Â½ years because that is how long one case sometimes lasts.Â Once you are assigned a case, the time commitment averages out to about 10 hours per month.Â Â Those hours can make a huge difference for a child.
Take some time to explore these websites for more information: casaforchildren.org and nebraskacasa.org. Â If you are interested in being a CASA volunteer or helping the CASA program in some way, please contact Cathy Wismer atÂ firstname.lastname@example.orgÂ orÂ 402.710.0879.
Be a voice for a child.
Written by Cathy Wismer and Shannon Siebert
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