This week of April is set aside each year to honor and thank volunteers. But if you ask the 65 million Americans who donate their time and talents to nonprofits, most would say that they’re the ones who should be thankful.
“One of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done is helping abused and neglected children navigate the often overwhelming foster care system so they can find safe and permanent homes,” says local CASA volunteer, Bob McLarty. “It feels great to know I’ve changed a child’s story.”
Court-appointed special advocates are volunteers empowered by the courts to advocate for children in foster care, to help protect their rights and safety, and to guide them through the child welfare system. For many abused children, a CASA volunteer is the only constant adult presence in their lives.
The child welfare system is too overburdened to provide this one-to-one advocacy. An entire year of CASA volunteer advocacy costs the same as a single month of foster care. In fiscal year 2019, approximately 1,200 CASA volunteers in Arizona contributed 92,054 advocacy hours, the equivalent of more than $2.2 million in taxpayer dollars if they had been compensated for their service.
And CASA volunteers are not only efficient, they’re very effective! Foster children who have a CASA volunteer by their side are more likely to succeed in school; substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care; and are half as likely to re-enter foster care, all as a result of finding a safe, nurturing permanent home.
CASA of Gila County is grateful for the current 28 volunteers who stand up for foster children in our communities. But many more children are waiting for advocates of their own. Currently there are over 128 children in out of home care in the Globe/Miami area alone. Only 18 of those children (14%) are being represented by a CASA. Get involved now and change a child’s story.
During National Volunteer Appreciation Week, consider learning more about becoming a CASA volunteer by visiting www.casaofgilacounty.org or calling Coordinators Patti Dremler at 928-474-7145 in Payson or Emily Nader at 928-402-4427 in Globe.