In the Community: Spotlight on Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)

NW Natural nonprofit Programs of Focus 2017-2019

 

Representing children in foster care

Children who have been abused or neglected often face a new level of trauma as they move through the foster care and court systems. That's when Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children of Multnomah, Washington and Columbia Counties steps in.

The nonprofit provides specially trained, volunteer advocates  —  CASAs — who are empowered by the court to represent children most at risk in an overburdened child welfare system. During the legal process, CASAs connect with family members, teachers, doctors, therapists and caseworkers. Based on what they learn, CASAs provide the presiding judge with an unbiased picture of the child's situation and advocate for the child's best possible outcome.

Skylar (left) and Sean sharing a laugh.
Skylar (left) and Sean sharing a laugh.

"A CASA is there not only to represent the best interests of the child, but also to provide much-needed feelings of support," said Anne Marie Johnson, director of development and communications for CASA of Multnomah, Washington and Columbia Counties. "For a child, having an individual committed to their case says 'I am looking out for you.' "

A CASA can also help keep family ties intact. CASA Kristi Ebert played an integral role in reuniting siblings Sean and Skylar, a sister and brother who were assigned to separate foster homes. She recognized the importance of keeping them together and worked closely with Skylar's foster mom Kelly, who welcomed Sean into her home. Living together gave the siblings a chance to reestablish their relationship before starting a new life with an adoptive family.

Sean also needed special medical treatment for a rare form of dwarfism, so Kristi and Kelly teamed up to make sure his needs were represented with health care providers. CASAs are not required to attend medical visits, but Kristi felt it was in Sean's best interest for her to be involved — an example of the amount of time and caring CASAs invest.

Approximately 500 active CASA volunteers invest their time representing 1,100 children. However, the nonprofit is able to serve just one third of the children in need of CASA services.

CASA is one of NW Natural’s five nonprofit Programs of Focus for 2017-2019. The organization will receive $35,000 per year for three years, plus in-kind resources and volunteer support from NW Natural employees.

» CASA is always in need of qualified people interested in training to be CASA volunteers, as well as financial support. To learn more about volunteering and donating, visit CASA.