JUNEAU - The Juneau Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program is recruiting volunteers to be the voice of hope for abused, neglected or abandoned children in our community. Every year in Juneau there are a number of children who are placed in foster care because abuse and neglect. Now, into these childrens' lives come dozens of strangers: police, foster parents, therapists, social workers, judges and lawyers. Hopefully, one of these strangers is a CASA volunteer.
CASA volunteers watch over and advocate for these abused and neglected children to make sure they don't get lost in the overburdened legal system or languish in foster care. They stay with each case until it is closed, and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many children, their CASA volunteer will be the one constant adult presence - the one adult who cares only for them.
"CASA is unique, the only program where everyday citizens are appointed by judges to speak up for a child's safety and well-being," said Lynn Squires-White, Juneau CASA program coordinator. "CASA volunteers come from all walks of life. You do not have to be a lawyer or social worker to volunteer. We welcome volunteers from all cultures, professions, ethnic and educational backgrounds. Roughly half of our volunteers work full-time."
Last year, 26 CASA volunteers represented the best interests of 69 children and youth in Juneau. Currently there are 179 children in foster care in Juneau, many of whom would benefit from a CASA volunteer.
There is no legal background or special experience required. The 32-hour core training begins September 16 during nights and weekends and is provided free of charge. Volunteers must be at least 21 years of age and must undergo a background check.
Please join the Juneau CASA program at one of its upcoming informational meetings. You must attend one information meeting in order to participate in the CASA training. Upcoming meetings will be held at 5:15 p.m. on Aug. 3 at the Mendenhall Valley library and at noon on Aug. 5 at the downtown library.
For more information on how you can be a CASA supporter or volunteer, contact Lynn Squires-White, Juneau CASA Program coordinator ,at 465-2268, or visit the Alaska CASA website at www.alaskacasa.org.