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CASA seeks volunteers
Oct 26, 2012 4:50 pm
In Wilson County, the average length of time a child stays in foster care is 11.6 months.
Laura Swanson, executive director of Wilson County CASA, wants to reduce that time and is seeking volunteers to help accomplish it.
“A lot of people have the misconception that CASA finds foster homes or takes children with them, and that’s not the case,” said Swanson.
Volunteers cannot house the children, transport the children or parents or give the children or parents expensive gifts.
“Volunteers build relationships with the children they work with so they can let the court know what the children need,” said Swanson.
In an overburdened department of children’s services, children often lack individualized attention. CASA volunteers meet with each child at least once a month, maintain contact with the department of children’s services about each child and report to the courts about each child.
“It’s just another set of eyes and ears for the judge, so that he can see from a different perspective,” said Swanson.
CASA has received strong support in the 25 years that it has been in Wilson County. In 2004, 30 volunteers served 70 children; in 2012 60 volunteers have served 265 children.
More volunteers are still needed, though, to serve every child that goes through Wilson County’s courts, and there is a particular need for male volunteers, according to Swanson.
“We have male children who, most of the time, come from female-dominated homes and are lacking strong, positive male influences,” said Swanson. “We had a 17 year-old boy who was staying in a foster home with a single female, and whose CASA volunteer was a female and whose DCS case worker was female…the judge said to him ‘You’re surrounded by women; of course you’re going to get in trouble – you can’t make all of them happy at once.’”
Wilson County CASA currently has 13 male volunteers out of 60, while about 49 percent of the children served are male.
Volunteers must be at least 21 years old, pass an extensive criminal background check and complete a 10-session training. Registration is closed for the next training session, but Swanson anticipates another session being offered in about February.
While volunteers are critical to the organization’s mission, people can also help by contributing financially.
“It costs about $800 a year to provide a CASA volunteer to one child,” said Swanson.
Donors can always contribute directly, or from Nov. 5-10, they can contribute through Cuts for CASA.
Throughout that week, Glitz and Glamour Hair Salon will donate half the proceeds from all haircuts to Wilson County CASA.
“My dad and hero, Bill Dodds, has been involved with CASA for what seems like my whole life,” said Jessica Dodds, organizer for the event and a stylist at Glitz and Glamour Hair Salon. “I came up with Cuts for CASA because CASA gives a voice to neglected and abused children, and this is my way to help people understand what a great organization it is and to become a voice.”
Cuts for CASA raised $500 last year.
For more information about Wilson County CASA or Cuts for CASA, visit wilsoncountycasa.org or call 615-720-3770.
Staff writer Sara McManamy-Johnson can be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 16 or firstname.lastname@example.org.