The goal is to broaden the program’s volunteer base and strengthen its sustainability
VANCOUVER — YWCA Clark County needs community support by Aug. 31 to take the Clark County CASA Program to the next level. The goal is to broaden the program’s volunteer base and strengthen its sustainability.
The campaign is Change a Child’s Story. This a Call to Action for all of Clark County to financially and socially support this service that helps abused and neglected children in our community.
CASA — which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate — has been part of YWCA Clark County for 35 years. The CASA Program addresses a critical need in Clark County. CASAs are highly trained community volunteers appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of children who have experienced abuse or neglect.
Information and recommendations provided by the CASA volunteer assist the court in making crucial decisions about the child’s immediate needs and long-term permanency. In 2018 alone, the CASA Program served 835 children.
Clark County CASA had previously been operating with the help of a federal grant. The funds are ending, which is why they’re turning to the community for support. YWCA and CASA have developed a strategy and revised budget for the program designed to strengthen Clark County CASA in the future, enabling it to better serve the most vulnerable children. The immediate need is $120,000 by Aug. 31 to fund the cost of two staff positions. Once that goal is met, Clark County CASA will be positioned to expand its volunteer base, seek further financial support, and build a more sustainable program going forward.
With the federal funds ending, organizers are asking the community to respond immediately to retain a current employee who both advocates for children and supports volunteers. Next, they want to substantially increase the number of volunteers by adding a new volunteer recruiter position.
This combination will make an immediate and long-term impact on their ability to maintain the cases they currently have, and to effectively serve abused and neglected children in our community. The goal is to increase their current volunteer base of 137 volunteers to more than 200, thus enabling them to more closely mirror the national CASA model. With community support for this campaign, they can transition more children to volunteers who, research shows, are the most effective advocates for these children.
As soon as word of the grant expiration was received by staff, donors began to step up to close the gap. All 11 members of the YWCA Board of Directors have committed funds to the campaign, and with contributions from others, almost $15,000 has already been raised.
“CASA volunteers are the cornerstone of our program and the best advocates for the vulnerable children we serve,” says Sheryl Thierry, director of CASA. “Recruiting and retaining amazing volunteers takes staff resources we currently do not have. We are looking to our community to help us increase our volunteer capacity and move closer to the program model recommended by National CASA, where volunteers serve as the child’s advocate.”
Why donate to CASA?
CASA’s work is most effective when trained community volunteers take on the advocate role. Investing in volunteers greatly expands the program’s ability to help vulnerable children in Clark County. The advocates change lives by ensuring children at risk are having their needs met and not getting lost in the system.
Judy Walter, a CASA volunteer since 2014, knows how powerful, and challenging, the CASA role can be. “All these words describe the experience of being a CASA: Rewarding and frustrating, motivating and discouraging, inspiring and tiring. In the end, rewarding, motivating, and inspiring keep me going,” she says. “When you see a child reunited with the family, or adopted by another family, you know you have made a difference. And yes, I cry sometimes.”
CASA volunteers are often the only consistent adult in the child’s life when they enter the system. CASA volunteers get to know the child, their cultural needs, their physical and emotional needs so they can advocate for the child and provide recommendations to the court in making crucial decisions about reunification of the family, or to support placement in a safe and stable permanent home.
But the need for new volunteers to join CASA and change those children’s stories is growing, says Sherri Bennett, executive director of YWCA Clark County. “This community has supported children in the foster care system via CASA for 35 years,” says Bennett. “Now, as we move in a new direction to improve the lives of the children entrusted to us, we are asking our community to step up once again.”
Information provided by YWCA Clark County.