Sometimes all that's needed is someone to pay close attention.
That's one of the driving goals behind CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, the national program that places judge-appointed trained volunteers with children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. After training, the volunteers put in time learning about the childrens' lives, eventually being able to advocate for what living situation would be in their best interest.
In Columbia County last year there were 182 children who spent time in foster care. CASA for Kids, Inc., our county's CASA office, has only been able to serve 32 of them, leaving 150 kids without a CASA advocate, said Kathryn Bourn, CASA for Kids executive director.
A new round of CASA training began Oct. 20, but Bourn said there is still a strong need for more people willing to share their time to help foster kids find a permanent home, whether that is with their biological parents or not. It's about finding what is best for the children, she said.
As reported cases of child abuse rise, which often leads to children being placed in foster care, more kids are in need of the work CASA does, Bourn said.
'The hardest part of my job isn't reading actual reports of child abuse,' she said. 'It's reading those reports and knowing I don't have an advocate.'
CASA for Kids' goal is to train 20 new advocates a year, which the local organization is able to facilitate thanks to a grant from the national CASA organization.
Foster children who are appointed CASAs are statistically more likely to find a stable home, Bourn said.
To learn more, visit: www.casaforkidsinc.org