Imagine learning the two meanings for the Spanish word casa: home and place. So warm and inviting! You then find yourself reading about an organization called CASA, whose volunteers advocate for abused or neglected children waiting in foster care for a permanent home or place. You learn that studies show a child with a CASA volunteer has a better chance of finding safety and permanency than one without. You learn that in New Hampshire there is an urgent need for CASA volunteers, with over 900 children in foster care. Then you come to the meaning of the CASA acronym, court appointed special advocate! Whoa! You might now think, as I did, that you don’t have the experience or time for anything involving the words “court appointed!” I hope I can convince you that you do.

CASA was started in Seattle in 1977 by Judge Soukup. He realized he was making life-changing decisions for children he knew little about. Now, judges rely on and respect a CASA volunteer’s ability to present a full picture of each child. Often, the CASA is the one consistent and trusted adult in these children’s lives throughout their time in foster care.

I had no previous experience in the world of judges or courtrooms when I chose to become a CASA. It’s been an incredibly rewarding and meaningful choice. Social workers and attorneys do an amazing job, but they handle many cases. As a CASA I represent children in just one family at a time, advocating for their best interests, gathering information from teachers, therapists, and most importantly spending time with the child, reading together, drawing, playing games, or sitting quietly and listening. Zoom visits have been a creative solution during COVID, one full of laughter and games. It’s inspiring to see these children smile and welcome CASA visits while they are still trying to process upsetting and traumatic events in their lives.

Hopefully your thoughts are again with the Spanish meaning of casa, and you’re interested in becoming a voice for children as they await their permanent home, house or place — their casa. CASA holds virtual training sessions every two months, with the next one beginning June 2. In my opinion the training is exceptional and leaves you feeling prepared and confident. Support and guidance from program managers never ends, nor does the encouragement and sharing from other CASA volunteers. For more information please visit www.casanh.org, or contact Katie at kpelczar@casanh.org or 603-528-8006. Thank you.

CAROL FAULKNER

CASA Guardian ad Litem

Keene