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CASA of Chautauqua announces recruitment campaign

MAYVILLE — Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Chautauqua County would like to announce its spring volunteer training to be held each Tuesday from March 3 to April 28 from 5-8:30 p.m. Training will be held in the Chautauqua County Emergency Services Conference Room at 2 Academy Street in Mayville. Those wishing to attend training should call CASA at 753-4123 to enroll.

Each year in Chautauqua County, hundreds of children are abused, neglected or abandoned by their families. Many of them are removed from their homes and placed in foster care or residential facilities. These children are brought before a Family Court judge to decide on matters involving custody, permanency and more. CASA volunteers are instrumental during this crucial time. The CASA volunteer ensures these underserved children are not looked over in the overburdened child legal and welfare systems. They make sure the child’s best interests are a priority and all services are being met. Oftentimes, the CASA volunteer is the one stable adult presence in that foster child’s life.

In 2019, almost half of the foster children that CASA served were male, therefore CASA staff has to seriously consider the impact of recruiting and training additional male volunteers. “Our goal is to match more foster boys with a positive male role model,” said Kathy Park, executive director. “Just 6% of our volunteers are men. This statistic is startling, yet not uncommon among CASA programs across the country. Most caseworkers in the child welfare system are female. Having a male role model that boys can relate to and that have had similar experiences, gives them more hope and direction for the future. Teenage boys frequently age out of the foster care system without finding safe and permanent homes. A positive male role model will help these boys become productive and happy adults.”

Last year, the 29 volunteers at CASA of Chautauqua County advocated for the needs of 78 abused and neglected children. The number of children that have received a CASA volunteer has grown since 2018, however, that number is only about half of the foster children that would benefit from having a CASA volunteer by their side. Studies show that foster children who have experienced a CASA volunteer are more likely to find permanency, more likely to receive the quality educational services needed and less likely to fall victim to teen pregnancy, among countless other positive outcomes.

CASA of Chautauqua County is in need of more volunteers to assist in advocating for these children. There is a need locally for both men and women volunteers however, there is an urgent need for men to become CASA volunteers. “Some men become advocates because their wives are part of the CASA program. Each one has their own case but support each other. Men and women bring different perspectives to the table when working with youth in foster care,” says Park.

Those interested in learning more about becoming a CASA volunteer are invited to join staff and volunteers for a mixer at Big Inlet Brewing, 6169 Elm Flat Road, Mayville on Sunday, Feb. 23 from 1-3 p.m. Interested parties will learn about the CASA program and enjoy light hors d’oeurves. All interested in volunteer opportunities are welcome to attend.

Volunteers are everyday people and from all walks of life that possess a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds. They have one common denominator…a passion for changing a child’s story for the better. Volunteers are appointed by a judge to provide a voice for the best interests of a child in court and to offer children trust and advocacy during complex legal proceedings. They help to assure the judge has a better understanding of the other parties in that child’s life, such as foster parents, teachers and physicians.

CASA volunteers must be 21 years old and commit to about 8-10 hours a month on their advocacy. The process to become a CASA volunteer includes 30 hours of classroom instruction on topics including CASA roles and responsibilities, bonding and attachment, child abuse and neglect, cultural issues, domestic violence, communication, conflict resolution and more. Candidates must pass a criminal background clearance which includes a criminal history record search, state criminal record search and National Sex Offender Registry search. Volunteers are asked to advocate for their case until permanency occurs, which is about one year.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities please call Kathy Park, executive director at 753-4123, Laurie Winkler, case advocate supervisor at 53-4132 or visit www.chautauquacasa.com.

If you are unable to become a CASA volunteer but would like to support the mission of CASA, a tax-deductible donation can me made online at Chautauquacasa.com or by sending a check to CASA of Chautauqua Co., Inc. at 2 Academy Street, Suite 5, Mayville, NY, 14757. CASA of Chautauqua County is a 501 (c) charitable nonprofit organization and a United Way Community Partner.

About CASA of Chautauqua

The mission of the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Chautauqua County is to provide an independent voice in court, advocating for the best interest of abused and neglected children in the pursuit of finding safe and permanent homes. CASA of Chautauqua County, Inc. relies on highly trained volunteers who are appointed by a Chautauqua County Family Court judge to advocate for children in court. These volunteers work with relevant agencies and parties in order to advocate for the best interest of the child. With the information provided by the CASA volunteer, Family Court judges are better able to make informed decisions as to what is best for the child.

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