To the Editor: Open your heart to a child

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer Guardian ad Litem (GAL) programs are one of the success stories in the child welfare system. For more than 30 years, CASA/GAL programs have existed across the United States as a partnership between courts, communities, and other stakeholders involved in the child welfare system. CASA is the only volunteer organization that empowers everyday citizens to become involved in the juvenile court system to serve as guardian ad litems working with abused and neglected children. CASA volunteers pledge to promote the safety, permanency and well-being of children and to ensure their “best interests” are served. As a “voice” for these children, CASA volunteers affect change and strive to provide positive outcomes in these children’s lives.

Appointed by judges, CASA volunteers typically handle just one case at a time—and commit to staying on that case until the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. CASA volunteers monitor a child’s case and advocate for vital services the child and family may need. One of the responsibilities of the volunteer is to maintain ongoing communication with not only the family and child, but with all the parties involved in the child’s life. This allows the volunteer to gain an understanding and familiarity with the family’s situation to provide vital information to the court, with the goal of expediting permanency and safety for the child.

To a child, having a volunteer working on their behalf can make all the difference. Those children working with a CASA volunteer have often asked: “You don’t get paid to do this?” It demonstrates to them the level of concern and commitment being made by a volunteer. Volunteers are ordinary citizens doing extraordinary work for children, and along the way they bring passion and dedication to their work.

As CASA of the 15th Judicial Circuit continues to serve a growing number of abused and neglected children in Ogle, Carroll and Lee County, more volunteers are needed. Our focus remains to assign a volunteer to each child involved in juvenile court proceedings. CASA is currently accepting applications for the Spring 2010 CASA/GAL classes, which began April 1, in the Dixon CASA office. For more information, please call (815) 288-1901.

Vanessa White

Director of Advocate Services

CASA of the 15th Judicial Circuit

Dixon, Ill.

From the April 14-20, 2010 issue

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