No, it's not a restaurant. No, it's not a house. It's the Court Appointed Special Advocate and Guardian Ad Litem Program.
When you become a CASA and start seeing the impact that this work has on the children we serve and that we are in CRITICAL need of more CASA Volunteers, you want to shout it from the rooftop. But, how do you explain this complex work with someone who has never heard of it before?
The number one message you want to leave with your companion is this simple equation: CASA = KIDS
They might not remember the acronyms or jargon like "best interests" so hit the highlights. I like to say, "CASA is a volunteer organization that advocates for children that have been abused or neglected." When they ask for more, I might say something like, "CASA Volunteers complete training with the program and work in the court system to help protect the child's interests." You could go even more specific about CASA tasks like home visits or court hearings or detail the training a bit more, depending on what information they're looking for.
But what if they ask about your case? This happens all the time and can be tricky to convey enough information to help your guest understand the job, but not so much that you compromise confidentiality. Speak vaguely and focus more on generalities and the work that YOU are doing, rather than specifics about any child you represent.
For example, "Right now, I'm working with a group of siblings. Some of my favorite parts of the CASA job have been visiting them in their foster home every few weeks and getting to know their teachers. I've been working really hard to make sure that their wishes are heard in court, so I've been writing reports detailing their wishes and make sure that the Judge hears what these kids want to happen."
Or, "Yeah, opiates have really taken the child welfare system by storm. Many of the children served by CASA, even some on my caseload, have been affected by opiates. It's frustrating sometimes when parents, even though they love their children more than anything, just can't seem to overcome their addiction to opiates."
See? I gave realistic information to provide context, but I didn't share private information and I focused more on my work as a CASA.
CASA Volunteers are always the BEST recruiters, because you know friends, neighbors, relatives and colleagues who would be just as great as YOU at this job. We need CASA Volunteers more than ever as our waiting list fills up. We are currently accepting applications for our October training cohort.
Know someone who is ready to apply and begin training? A great way to connect a potential volunteer to a CASA staff is to send an email to both of us to make an initial connection. We'll take it from there.
About the Author: Jenny Stotts currently serves as the Executive Director of the Athens CASA/GAL Program. Stotts also serves as the Regional Director of Southeast Ohio CASA as part of a strategic partnership between Athens CASA, the Ohio CASA Association and the Ohio Attorney General's Office.