November 2015

CASA: Answering the Call for Children in Need

by Jehan Seals

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.” -Proverbs 31:8

Growing up we’ve witnessed our fair share of bullying. On some occasions we’ve stood as support for those in need. Now as we’ve grown into adulthood the bullying of a child calls for a more active response that we are all asked to answer.

“Children need to do more than just survive. They deserve safe, permanent homes with loving families where they can grow and thrive. However, some children have been removed from their homes for their own protection due to abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents or caregivers, “ said Jennifer Mayer, recruitment coordinator for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). “These children need a voice to speak up for them, and CASA volunteers provide that voice”.

CASA Recruitment Coordinator Jennifer Mayer and Volunteer Mike KavanaughJennifer speaks weekly to the 19th Judicial District Court jury pool to share information concerning CASA and to express the ongoing need for volunteers.

“Children are continuously entering the foster care system, so CASA always needs volunteers in order to continue serving every child who needs a voice.” While diligent in her efforts to reach every juror, Michael Kavanaugh was one of the few who responded to the call.

“Prior to hearing Jennifer speak, my mind was preoccupied; I wasn’t necessarily happy about the time I’d be missing from work. However, after hearing Jennifer speak and final juror selections were made, some of us were released to go. I was relieved and headed to my car but not without hesitation. I recognized God’s presence, which lead me to CASA, and in my 17 months as an advocate I gained more than I had imagined.” Michael completed his CASA training in February 2014 and accepted his first case in March 2014.

“Once I heard David’s voice I deeply understood the need for CASA advocates,” Michael said. “He hadn’t yet reached puberty and his voice was still at that developing stage. I learned a lot about David and his family dynamics. He shared his heart, which in return, I gained the greater gift. I had the opportunity to speak up concerning his needs and make a difference in his life.” Jennifer explained how although CASA volunteers do not provide legal representation, nor replace social workers, their testimony is highly influential.

“The CASA volunteer gets to know the child and speaks with everyone involved in the case – foster parents, child protection, biological family, etc. Prior to each court hearing, the CASA volunteer submits a written report to the juvenile court judge including pertinent information about the child and recommendations advocating for what is in the child’s best interest.”

“Concerning David’s situation, I gained a greater appreciation for what I have. I realize that God gives his blessings so that we might be a blessing to others. Each time I would speak to David over the phone, the one thing he would always ask for was prayer.” Michael said. “I believe [it] made a difference in his life as well as my life. “

CASA’s goal is to advocate for timely placement of abused and neglected children in permanent, safe, and stable homes. CASA strives to continue providing a volunteer advocate for every child in East Baton Rouge Parish who needs a voice.

“When children’s needs are being met appropriately, they are able to grow and develop optimally, but due to the circumstances they face in foster care, their growth is at risk, even developmental skills,” Jennifer said. CASA’s mission cannot be met without volunteers. We can easily join to provide a voice for these children. More information can be found at Answering the call to get involved as a CASA volunteer could be the difference in a child’s life.

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