“I would tell people that I worked with CASA, and they would always ask what it was, because they had never heard of it before,” said Camp, the local chapter’s executive director.
Today, the child advocacy organization enjoys the support of the community. Evidence of that is the popularity of the annual Grand Night for CASA, the organization’s largest fundraiser, which will be held for the 12th time Saturday, March 23.
The CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program helps to ensure that a qualified, compassionate adult will fight for and protect a child’s right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect and to learn and grow in the safe embrace of a loving family.
“Every child who cannot live safely at home should have a CASA volunteer who will help ensure their safe passage out of foster care, to the benefit of their children, and generations to come,” Georgia CASA says on its website.
CASA is a national nonprofit organization. There are almost a thousand programs across the U.S. In Georgia, there are CASA programs in almost 100 counties.
CASA’s local office is in downtown Carrollton, near the Carroll County Courthouse.
The CASA program in Carroll County currently only serves children who have been abused and neglected and are in the foster care system. In the past, Carroll County’s CASA was able to serve a broader range of children, but it currently is only able to help foster kids.
“The reason is that right now, we have about 12 to 14 children in the foster care system who do not even have a CASA volunteer,” Camp explained.
A new volunteer training class began March 11.
CASA desperately needs volunteers to help ensure that children in the foster care system are not only kept safe, but that their voices are heard. A CASA volunteer is the vocal piece for the child and always expresses the child’s interests in the court, which are expressed even before what the volunteer personally believes to be the best route for the child.
Volunteers tell the judge serving the child’s case what the child has expressed as a desire — that they want to go home, etc. — and then work toward the goal of providing the child with a permanent, safe, and loving home. Often, a CASA volunteer is the only constant in the child’s life.
Camp realizes the value of having a stable person to turn to when everything else has drastically changed.
“A lot of times, when kids are in foster care, everything in their world changes — physical placement, schools, attorneys, families, etc.,” Camps said. “But the CASA volunteer is always the same. Kids need that consistency; they need a stable person that goes and spends time with them no matter where the child is placed in the state of Georgia.
“Volunteers give the children individualized attention, and they make sure the children are receiving all of the services that they need, whether that’s a medical or mental service, or a visitation with the child’s family. One of our main goals is to ensure that the kids are not in foster care for a long period of time.”
The first requirement of becoming an advocate is that a volunteer has to be 21 years of age or older. Camp said a simple application process follows, with both professional and personal references. There is also a local background check, and a screening before a hopeful volunteer can begin the training process. Even then, the training process is carefully monitored. The entire process is water-proof to ensure the best and safest advocates for the children.
Donations are always welcomed and needed, along with volunteers. Grand Night is CASA’s biggest fund-raising event of the year, but anyone who wants to help with their money or time and cannot attend the event are welcomed.
Grand Night for CASA will be at the renovated Bradley Street train depot Saturday at 7 p.m. Banks and Shane will perform.
“Tons of people are really excited about Banks and Shane,” Camp said. “This band is highly entertaining, and they play a little bit of everything, from rock and roll to country, to covers from famous songs from Zac Brown Band, along with a lot of other artists.”
There will also be a silent auction featuring local artists. Camp promises plenty of enticing artwork in several different mediums: pottery, paintings, handmade jewelry, and woodwork.
Tickets are $60. For more information call 770-838-1964.
For more information on Carroll County’s CASA, visit www.carrollcasa.org.