Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Interview with a CASA volunteer

Blogger note:
Found this interesting - since most of us know that CASA's are not truly independent (CPS has their hands wrapped tightly around the program and the volunteers) and do not always look out for the child(ren) in many cases.
by Andrea Poe

EASTON, MD., November 28, 2011 — Last month, The Red Thread profiled CASA as an organization that helps children navigate the legal system. The organization relies on volunteers around the country. This week, The Red Thread interviewed one of those volunteers about her experiences with CASA.

Bonnie Morro, a graduate of the University of Connecticut, is a retired HR director at Becton Dickinson and Company, a medical technology manufacturer headquartered in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.

Following her retirement in January 2005, she spent three years as a substitute teacher in the Torrington, Connecticut public school system, where she taught Kindergarten through 5th grade, as well as pre K developmentally challenged children.

After moving to Easton, Maryland, Morro became a CASA volunteer.

How did you first become involved with CASA?

I wanted to get involved in a volunteer activity that had substance, one that would challenge me, provide a service to the community and be fulfilling. While waiting to be accepted into the program I read a lot about the work that CASA did and was very impressed with the results of the organization’s efforts.

How extensive was the training? What did it entail?

Once an applicant has passed a background check, there is a requirement for 34 hours of in-house training before getting a CASA appointment. There is also a requirement to complete 12 hours of training each year following an appointment.

Initial training is very rigorous, and is conducted by CASA staff and external resources such as lawyers, judges, and Department of Social Services staff.

Training includes areas such as introduction to the law, child protection systems and the courts, exploring cultural awareness and understanding families and children.

What was your first assignment like?

I am currently working on my first assignment, which began in December of 2010. I have been fortunate to get a case where the biological parent is doing everything that has been outlined in her service plan.

The twins were infants when I was assigned the case and have been living in an excellent foster home. They are doing well and their biological mother is working toward reunification with her children.

As a new CASA volunteer, I have much to learn. Having a case that’s moving forward in a positive direction has given me an opportunity to gain experience without much of the frustration that can accompany so many of these cases.

How does it work?

A CASA is assigned a child who is under the protection of the court due to neglect, abuse or abandonment. Responsibilities include visiting the child, or, in my cases, children, once a month, corresponding with the Department of Social Services, meeting with the child(ren)’s parents, contacting any other sources that may be necessary, such as lawyers, teachers, physicians. You must also submit a written report to the court prior to the hearing for the case. A CASA must observe, question, conduct research and make recommendations based on his or her findings that are in the best interest of the child.

What's the most challenging part of being a CASA volunteer?

My greatest challenge is to ensure that I don't overlook anything that could be detrimental to the children. I work very closely with a Department of Social Services Child Protection worker and under the guidance of a CASA staff person.

What’s the greatest reward?

Knowing that what you are doing will make a positive impact on children’s lives.


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