SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Children going through the foster care system are often experiencing or overcoming their most challenging time in life. But currently, an agency that aims to help during that time is in need of volunteers.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is a national organization which provides a volunteer for children navigating the foster care system, giving children who are victims of abuse and neglect a voice in a trying time.
There are 1,200 children in foster care in Sedgwick County at any given time. With the current number of volunteers, only 8 percent of those children are being served with an advocate. All children have the right to an advocate under a Supreme Court statute.
“A lot of times the children just need listening ears and someone who will show up no matter what,” Ashley Thorne, executive director for Sedgwick County CASA said.
Thorne herself has taken on her own cases through CASA.
“It wasn’t the easiest thing, I came into her foster home and let her know I was going to be one of many professionals that were going to come in and out of her life and ask her questions. But what she didn’t realize, was I was the professional that was never going to back down,” Thorne said.
Many times, children in the system have bounced from home to home and school to school. The CASA volunteer serves as a constant for them.
While volunteer numbers haven’t gone down, the number of children in the foster care system is rising, according to Kansas CASA association director Mickey Edwards.
“So even though CASA volunteers continue to increase in our state, we’re not increasing the number of kids we’re serving because the need continues to grow and grow and grow,” Edwards said.
Children who have access to a CASA volunteer spend less time in foster care than those who do not. The volunteer equips the child with resources and a loving heart, something that could be hard to come by for these children who are all victims of abuse and neglect.
Additionally, the volunteer helps the judge, who is in charge of deciding the child’s next destination, with information that could help them make an informed decision.
“They only have five minutes to make a lifelong decision for a child,” Thorne said.
Requirements for being a CASA volunteer include being 21 or older, having a passion for children, and the willingness to dedicate 1-3 hours of your time per week to ensuring the child’s needs are met.
It would take .01 percent of the Wichita community volunteering to fill the void for children without a CASA volunteer.
Interested in volunteering? Click here.