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CASA volunteer training begins Jan. 24

Prudence Amick, a longtime resident of The Dalles, has been a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer since 2007. She describes her experience as a CASA volunteer as “interesting, sometimes frustrating and emotionally demanding work, but one of the most satisfying things I have done in my life.

“These kids need people who care about them, who are willing to take the time to get to know them, and to stand up and speak for the child’s interests in court.”

Columbia Gorge CASA recruits, trains and supports community volunteers to advocate for children in foster care. CASA volunteers are appointed by a local judge and they report to the judge during the case to let them know how the child is doing and to communicate any concerns that they may have. They make sure that the child receives needed services, work to keep the case moving quickly toward closure and commit to being a constant presence in the child’s life during this stressful time.

In Hood River, Wasco, and Sherman counties there are more than 130 children living in foster care because they were abused or neglected by their parents.

Foster care usually comes suddenly for children; when strangers knock at the door and take your parents away and send you off with someone you have never met. Usually, there is little time to collect your belongings or say goodbye to friends.

Kids in foster care often change schools and foster homes multiple times. Everything and everyone in their life changes.

Amick recently recounted a conversation she had with one of her CASA kids: “When my CASA child was informed he was getting a new DHS caseworker, he asked me ‘Does that mean I have to get a new CASA too?’ And when I told him no, that I would still be his CASA, he gave me a big hug and said, ‘I’m glad you’ll still be here,’ which made me realize that I was making a difference in this child’s life.”

When a CASA volunteer is assigned to a child, the time that child spends in foster care is reduced an average of seven months. This reduced time in foster care not only saves thousands of state and federal dollars, it enables children who have been traumatized both by the abuse and the lengthy legal process to find safe, loving, and permanent homes more quickly. CASA volunteers make a real difference in a child’s life.

Would you consider becoming a CASA? Columbia Gorge CASA will be conducting its winter volunteer training starting on Jan. 24. The five-week training totaling 30 hours has an online component and a weekly in-person class.

For more information about the training contact CASA Advocate Manager Susan Baldwin at 541-296-2045 or sbaldwin@gorgecasa.org.

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