Something I've considered doing in the past is becoming a CASA volunteer. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate - they are the voice of a child in a courtroom.
Ordinary, every day people, appointed for the safety and well-being of children who have no voice in the court system.
For those of you who don't feel that being a foster parent is do-able at the moment, consider becoming a CASA volunteer.
Here's a list of what volunteers do:
- Gather information: Review documents and records, interview the children, family members and professionals in their lives.
- Document findings: Provide written reports at court hearings.
- Appear in court: Advocate for the child's best interests and provide testimony when necessary.
- Explain what is going on: Help the child understand the court proceedings.
- "Be the glue": Seek cooperative solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the children's lives. As one volunteer said: Be the glue that connects the pieces in a complicated child welfare system.
- Recommend services: Ensure that the children and their family are receiving appropriate services and advocate for those that are not immediately available. Bring concerns about the child's health, education, mental health, etc. to the appropriate professionals.
- Monitor case plans and court orders: Check to see that plans are being followed and mandated review hearings are being held.
- Keep the court informed: Update the court on developments with agencies and family members. Ensure that appropriate motions are filed on behalf of the child so the court knows about any changes in the child's situation.
When we adopted Mac, he had a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), which is very similar. Someone who talked to everyone involved and spoke to the judge about what was best for the child. She had no personal stake in the case and wasn't involved other than finding our the best course of action for the children in her files. We loved Mac's GAL.
GALs and CASA volunteers are very similar positions and when we were first exposed to the people in these positions I thought it was something I could do to help the children in foster care.
I have not signed up yet, I've been waiting for the kids to be in school more so that I can devote more time to such endeavors. I'm hoping that I can sign up this fall, perhaps, when the kids are going to school 5 days a week (even though it's still only 1/2 a day).
This is a terrific way to help the children in foster care without finding extra bed space. Think about it!