A program that helps kids make their way through the court system is looking for adult volunteers in all 99 Iowa counties. Clare Gee is the coordinator of what’s called the Court Appointed Special Advocate program or CASA. “Our volunteers are regular citizens who advocate for the needs of children who have been abused and neglected. The volunteers are appointed by a judge, and the volunteers report out during court hearings on what they believe is in the best interest of the children or child in each case,” Gee says.
She says the qualifications are simple. “Someone who cares about children and wants to get involved in a real easy to define success kind of a way,” Gee says. “They know exactly what they are going to be doing as they work with the community service providers and the families. So that they can advocate for the children and then they can see the outcomes of what they’ve observed, the recommendations that they’ve made and what the judge decides to do on the cases.”
Gee says the community service providers do a great job of helping kids, but they have such large caseloads that it makes it tougher to focus in on one case. That’s where the CASA comes in. “Our volunteers work one case at a time typically, so they they opportunity to really get to know the families and the caregivers — everyone that surrounds the child, teachers, social workers,” Gee explains.
Volunteers go through a 30-hour training program. “We have incredible training and support ongoing for our volunteers before they ever take a case, and then ongoing throughout the case,” Gee says. Once the training is done and you are assigned a case, Gee says it takes about 10 hours a month. She says it sounds like a huge amount of time, but says that is why they only assign one case, to keep the workload down.
If you are interested in volunteering or finding out more about the program, you can call 1-866-448-4608, or email Gee at: [email protected]