CASA to Swear in New Advocates

Tonight CASA will swear-in 22 new Volunteers. These new Advocates have completed the necessary 30 hour training to become a CASA Volunteer.

CASA is excited to welcome these new Advocates to our program. The more volunteers we have, the more chidren in the foster care system we can reach! Stay tuned, tomorrow we will post photos of our new advocates!

If you would like to get involved in becoming a CASA Advocate, we will begin our next training session in April. For more information log onto www.atlanticcapecasa.org or call (609) 601-7800.

CASA Advocate named United Way Volunteer of the Month

Congradulations is in order to CASA Advocate Jack McCarron who has been named United Way of Atlantic County volunteer of the month.

Jack goes above and beyond his duties as a volunteer here and we are more than thrilled to have him win this award.

Jack has helped 11 children in 5 years find safe and permanent homes. But it isn’t just his advocay in the court rooms that makes Jack valuable, it is his help with the volunteer mentor groups, his service to CASA’s programming committee and his work as a court liason.

Brett Castone, Jack’s CASA Case Supervisor, nominted Jack for the award for his willingness to go above and beyond his normal duties.

Once again, condradulations Jack!

Adam Robe’s Robbie The Rabbit Website a Great Resource for CASA Volunteers

Here at CASA we always try to find resources not only for our Advocates, but for others who are working in the foster care system.

For awhile now, we have been getting blog posts and updates from blog post from Adam Robe, a former foster child himself.

At his webiste, Robbie the Rabbit, Robe discusses the trials and triumphs of being in America’s foster care system and what foster parents, case workers and even CASA volunteers can do to help a child adjust.

His latest blog post, “Why Can’t I Just Be Me” provides some great insight into a foster child’s since of identity.

He states, “if you are a child that is placed into foster care, you may find that there was a break in the formation of your identity. Defining “who” you are and “how” you fit into the world becomes harder the longer you remain in foster care and the different roles you play.”

Not only does Robe provide his own insight through blogs and posts, but he also has materials, including activity books and adult guides, for children and foster care parents.

Robe is a great resource that we as people who work in the system should utilize. I recommend every person who works in the system should visit his website at least once.

5 Better Ways To Serve Youth

by Ryan Miller, Team Leader, Transitioning Youth Project, CASA of Travis County, Austin, TX

These are Top Tips for Volunteers from the most recent issue of The Connection, put out by the National CASA office. These tips can also be found here.

1. Seek Opportunities for Growth Through Decision Making.
The system is set up so that the teens we represent have minimal decision-making power. From the big questions to the small, professionals and foster parents are often calling the shots. Where does that leave an 18-year-old who is on his own for the first time?

Being able to make healthy decisions is a learned skill. Youth need the chance to cook their own dinners, even at the cost of burning their thumbs on the stove. Or the chance to manage their own money, even if they misspend some of it. Making poor decisions is a part of growing up, and we are only delaying that process by trying to keep foster youth in a bubble until their 18th birthdays.

2. Don’t Be a Disciplinarian. Youth Don’t Need Any More of Those.
Foster youth usually have plenty of people to tell them how they have messed up. Their placement, their school, their judge, their caseworker and possibly others are going to chime in after a poor decision. Even if the CASA volunteer is the person the youth most trusts, the youth does not need to hear from one more person how they blew it. Instead, be future-focused and ask, “Where do we go from here?” or “How do we get past this?”

3. Give Youth a Voice.
Countless foster care alumni have stated that they felt as though they never had a voice. CASA volunteers can change that. Make sure that youth are participants in meetings concerning their case and are able to speak to judges at hearings. Keep them informed about what is going on. In Travis County, youth have begun to write their own court reports in which they share with the judge their plan, concerns and wishes.

4. Find Connections for Youth.
Youth need healthy adults in their lives. The idea of preparing youth for “independent” living is a fallacy. Successful young adults are almost always dependent on those around them for support. No one can do it alone.

So reconsider family. Even if the biological parents were not healthy years ago, things may have changed. A great majority of foster care alumni seek out biological parents after leaving care. Volunteer advocates can help make this connection while the youth is in care and still has support available. Also, CASA volunteers can find healthy connections from the community—teachers, coaches, foster parents or even parents of friends. Use FosterClub’s Permanency Pact toolkit described at CASAforChildren.org/Adulthood to assist in defining these relationships.

5. Expect Snags Along the Way, But Don’t Let the Snags Distract.
Emergencies are going to come up. We are working with teenagers who have been through a lot. Ups and downs are to be expected. However, it is the CASA volunteer’s role to remain future-focused. While facing the daily strains of being in care, a youth needs someone able to step back and look at the big picture. CASA volunteers can be the voice that speaks up for a youth’s goals of higher education, future employment and lifelong relationships.

Foster Siblings Often Separated while in Foster Care

An ABC News Online article reported today that over 40 percent of children in the foster care system are separated from their brothers and sisters, well above the international average. Less than one in five foster children live with their brothers and sisters, and one quarter of these children have no ongoing contact with their siblings.

Siblings who find themselves in the system are often separated simple because no other option exists. Its hard for brothers and sisters, often up to 3 to 6 of them, to be placed in the same home. For some children who have already lost their parents, this separation can be devastating.

Some siblings get lucky and are placed near enough to each other that they can see each other often. Others may loose ties completely.

It is important as these children go through the system, that they are able to keep what little ties they have to family.

Speak Up for a Child Day

In Nevada, Gov. Brian Sandoval has declared today, Feb. 18, Speak up for a Child Day.

According to an article in the Nevada Appeal, the day is in honor of the 4,965 childen in the foster care system in Nevada.

The govenor declared, “These children have the right to an advocate to represent their best interests, to speak up for them and to help ensure that they arrive at a safe, permanent home in a timely manner.”

The day began with a 7 a.m. breakfast at the Nevada Legislature with different events planned to inform legislators of the importance of CASA.

This Speak up for a Child Day is a great way to bring awareness to the thousands of children in the foster care system. Even though the day is only celebrated in Nevada that doesn’t mean you can’t remember those children in the system.

CASA volunteer Barbara Borak recognized

CASA volunteer Barbara Borak was in the news this morning! CASA nominated Barbara as the Volunteer Advocate of the quarter. Read the full story below or on the Shore News Today website.

The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Atlantic and Cape May counties recently named Barbara Borak of Ocean City as CASA volunteer advocate of the quarter.

Boark, who completed her training in October 2008, was recognized for her outstanding service to two siblings with special educational and behavioral needs.

“Barbara was instrumental in advocating for special counseling services for these children and was a vital communicator between the therapeutic foster mother and the Division of Youth and Family Services,” says Executive Director Angie Waters. “Because of Barbara’s efforts, these two siblings are now awaiting an adoption date. We’re very grateful to Barbara and thank her for all of her efforts on behalf of the children of Atlantic and Cape May counties and the entire CASA community.”

Trained CASA volunteer advocates speak in family court on behalf of abused and neglected children in the foster care system and are dedicated to ensuring these children are placed in safe permanent homes as quickly as possible. In Atlantic and Cape May counties, over 700 children are placed in foster care annually. Last year, CASA served nearly 300 abused and neglected children with 175 advocates and helped place 94 children in permanent homes.

Volunteering for CASA is a rewarding experience says advocate Judy of Mays Landing. “The CASA program addresses one of the most compelling problems of our society, narrows it to one small child and allows me to enter that life and make a difference.” CASA is a United Way Partner Agency.