You are more than just a volunteer!
Be proud of the fact that you are a CASA volunteer and that you stand up and speak out for the best interests of abused and neglected children! You are NOT just a volunteer, even though there will be those who think of you as such. You have a vital role and are the child’s volunteer, mentor, advocate, and friend!
The National Mentoring Partnership defines a mentor as a “supportive adult who works with a young person to build a relationship by offering guidance and support over a period of time.” CASA volunteers go beyond mentoring by advocating for positive changes which categorizes them as “quality” mentors where the relationship results in the positive development of youth toward a healthy & productive future to achieve their fullest potential.
According to a report by The National Mentoring Partnership, “research shows that certain populations are more likely than others to become at-risk — and therefore in greater need of the benefits that a quality mentoring relationship can provide. These groups include: youth in and aging out of foster care, low-income youth, youth from single parent homes, children of veterans, youth that identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or queer), children of incarcerated parents, immigrants or children of immigrants, youth who are off track to graduate or at risk of becoming so, as well as youth involved with the criminal justice system.”
At-risk youth benefit from positive role models like CASA volunteers. Some of the immediate and long-term benefits include: increased high school graduation and lower dropout rates; healthier relationships and lifestyle choices; better school attitude; increased college/educational aspirations; enhanced self-esteem/confidence; improved behaviors and interpersonal skills; and, lastly, decreased likelihood of initiating drug use.
CASA volunteers are trained advocates giving of their time (and heart) to help the judge make serious short- and long-term decisions. It is similar to foster parents…they are NOT just caregivers despite being treated that way and often left out of the loop. Foster parents are sometimes told that they are just caregivers, paid employees more or less. Good foster parents become knowledgeable about the issues their foster children face, and many times it is the foster parents who can tell others involved about the children’s needs. They are the ones who see the children on a daily basis and spend the most time with them.
CASA volunteers have a lot of information since they check in with children weekly. It is important that foster parents and CASA volunteers keep documentation regarding the children; research issues children are facing; be calm yet persistent; use supervisors to go up the chain of command, if necessary; not be afraid to ask questions; and above all, to stand firm and stand up for the rights of the CASA child!
Thank you for being children’s mentor, advocate, and friend!