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CASA News The Ally

A note from the Director: 

The start of a new school year is an exciting time for many children, but for children in foster care it is just another page in a difficult chapter of their lives. You can make a difference. Our advocates exist to change a child’s story, from one of difficulty and despair to one of safety and hope. We believe that every child has a right to feel safe, loved, and cared for, and we work tirelessly to make this a reality.

In a county filled with nonprofit organizations that do amazing work to serve vulnerable populations, CASA of Forsyth County fills a unique role as we train and support volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children.  

Picture this...we take volunteers who have a heart for serving children but no knowledge of the child welfare system, provide them with 30 hours of intensive training and 10 hours of in-court observations, and then our Juvenile Court Judges swear them in as officers of the court.  

These volunteers then receive a court order, naming them the advocate for a specific child or a sibling group. They agree to spend 10-12 hours each month, recognizing that the appointment may last as long as 18-24 months – sometimes longer. Given the dire shortage of foster homes in Forsyth County, it is likely that our volunteers will drive to visit their child anywhere in the state – perhaps Augusta, Macon, McDonough, or LaGrange – each month.  

As we compile the statistical data that quantifies our work at the end of FY2019, the numbers tell me that we met our goals by serving 100% of the foster children from Forsyth County. In addition, we served nearly 30% of the at-risk children who remain in their home while their families receive services from DFCS in an effort to stabilize the chaos in the home without inflicting additional trauma that comes when children are removed from their parents.

But numbers only tell part of the story. Lori Pupp, our Advocacy Director, describes the work of our volunteers this way, “Each time a child enters foster care, our volunteers are there. Each time a child is all alone in a new foster care placement, our volunteers are there. Each time they are forced to lay their head down at night on a different pillow and sleep with a new blanket, our volunteers are there. Each time they are hospitalized for behaviors that we know are a desperate cry for healing, our volunteers are there. And each time these children must find their strength to get up in the morning and go to a new school, with a new teacher knowing no one at all, our volunteers are there. They are true Superheroes, with their ‘cape’ of security and strength.”

Our volunteer army, which has grown well beyond 100, comes from all walks of life – some are employed full-time, some have retired, some are young adults who juggle college studies with their advocacy role. Some are raising young families of their own, and some are empty nesters. Our advocates range in age from 21 to a spry 90-year-old advocate who joined us after retiring from a career in the health-care profession last year.  

We have saved a spot for you. Given the unpredictable nature of the population we serve, we not only need additional volunteers, but we need ambassadors to share our story, office support to expand our capacity, and donors who can help us fund our mission. It costs $250 to train each new volunteer and $1,000 a year to provide staff support for their work. No matter the cost, the kids of our community are worth it. Our volunteer advocates are the voices for children who desperately need them, but they cannot do it alone. It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child, and we need you in our village. Will you step up and help change a child’s story?

Paula Malmfeldt

Executive Director | CASA of Forsyth County, Inc.

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