WHAT IS CASA?
In 1977, Judge David W. Soukup of Seattle, WA, noticed the lack of representation for abused and neglected children who were under the legal protection of the court system. To combat this, Judge Soukup began the first Court Appointed Special Advocate program, better known as CASA.
Today, there are almost 1,000 CASA programs nationwide. According to the national CASA website, those programs are supported by more than 70,000 volunteers. Abused and neglected children have been given a voice for years, keeping them from situations known to be dangerous and even deadly. During the 1990’s, Ashley Rhodes-Courter experienced the benefits of a CASA volunteer.
Rhodes-Courter entered the Florida foster care system by the age of three. Over the next nine years, she shuffled between 14 homes. At the age of 12, she was finally adopted from a Children’s Home. After bouncing between homes and social workers, Rhodes-Courter was introduced to a CASA volunteer. With the help of this volunteer, Rhodes-Courter ended the uncertainty of being in the foster system.
“I spent nearly 10 years in foster care as a child. I am so thankful I had a CASA Volunteer who made sure even my basic needs were being met. Because of my advocate, I got my teeth cleaned, hair cut, had school supplies, and necessary clothing. Often, other care givers were neglecting my basic needs. Had it not been for my CASA—a volunteer who had a little bit of time, and really big heart—I would not have gotten out of abusive homes or found an adoptive family. May more community members choose to support this amazing organization and the vulnerable children they serve,” said Rhodes-Courter when discussing how impactful CASA volunteers are to every child.
We forget how lucky we were as kids to be able to brush our teeth, have clothes to wear each day, and what it felt like to know someone cared about us. Children who are abused and neglected are often without these basic needs. Being a CASA volunteer does not require us to move mountains, but to make the mountains smaller.
Becoming a CASA volunteer requires no special skills. Volunteers must be 21 years old, have a valid driver’s license, clear a background check, possess basic computer skills and good communication skills. Most importantly, CASA volunteers must have a desire to help a child. Volunteers need also to attain training to prepare themselves for the role as a CASA. After a CASA volunteer has completed their training and paperwork, they will be official sworn in as a CASA. Volunteers will then receive their first case and an Advocate Supervisor to help them.
By becoming a CASA volunteer, you have the ability to save a child from the confusing world of the court system. You have the chance to give a child a voice in a situation they may be overlooked in. By becoming a CASA volunteer, you can create more stories like Ashley Rhodes-Courter’s, who herself became a CASA volunteer and advocate for child rights.
For more information on becoming a CASA volunteer in Brown County, go to https://www.casabc.org/volunteer or contact Advocate Supervisor Taylor Connell at
(920) 437-2272 Ext. 108. Or, email Taylor Connell at email@example.com.
The Honors Program and the CASA organization paired together to bring Ashley Rhodes-Courter to campus for an lecture on October 23, 2017. At this speaking engagement, members of the SNC and surrounding communities were able to hear first-hand Ashley's personal story of hardship and hope. The evening was filled with laughter, tears, and words of motivation; words to encourage change and words to inspire. Ashley's open personality and ability to connect with her audience through her story led to many small group discussions with multiple attendees at a reception before her lecture and immediately following.
Student members of the St. Norbert College Honors Program had an opportunity to meet (and to have copies of her book, "Three Little Words", signed) with Ms. Rhodes-Courter as a culmination of a collaborative experience between the program and the CASA organization. This experience, part of an honors tutorial session, has provided students in the program with a unique opportunity to learn more about the CASA organization and the challenges faced by child welfare advocates at the local and national levels.