We are grateful to Judge (Ret.) Tara Hagerty for telling her story in a recent OpEd in the Courier-Journal titled "Kids and services are collapsing. What's a Family Court judge supposed to do?" by Bonnie Jean Feldkamp. In the article, Judge Hagerty bravely tells of her own medical emergency brought upon by stress, a direct result of years spent navigating with the immense pressures of serving children in a system drastically lacking in resources. Her situation is a wake-up call, showing the state of Family Courts and the urgent need for community involvement, particularly the necessity of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers.
Judges, despite their best efforts, are often helpless due to the widening gaps in state services and resources. The situation is so dire that social workers are overwhelmed with caseloads and are exiting the system for better-paying jobs with less stress. Foster care is in a similar state, with a drastic rise in the need for foster families and not enough homes to provide for these children in need.
Because of the lack of resources, CASAs provide a critical role in ensuring children are safe and supported. CASAs can provide the support, advocacy, and dedicated attention that children need and the overburdened system cannot always supply. CASA volunteers help by representing the child's best interests in court, ensuring their needs don't get lost in an overwhelmed system. They can be the stable presence in a child's life, providing the necessary attention that could change the child's future for the better.
The crisis within the Family Court system is a community problem that requires a community solution. When the state's services buckle, it's the community's responsibility to step up. By becoming a CASA volunteer, you can go beyond helping a child in need to helping to heal a fractured system, one child at a time. It's more than volunteer work; it's a lifeline for both the children and the individuals who are fighting tirelessly on the front lines for the welfare of our children. Learn more by visiting www.casariverregion.org/volunteer.