New volunteers join CASA

Judge Janet L. Stauffer swore in the newest group of Columbia Gorge CASA volunteers (Court Appointed Special Advocates) on Nov. 7.

The new advocates are Mary Anghilante, Jessica Hodges and Tim Orth, of The Dalles, and Pam Dutton, Sheila Gallagher and Melissa Hayes, of Hood River.

The join a cadre of trained child advocates who serve our neglected and abused children in Hood River, Wasco and Sherman counties.

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they aren’t forgotten in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes.

Since children involved in juvenile dependency court generally do not appear before the judge in person, CASA volunteers are often referred to as “the presence of the absent: the voice of the child” and due to changing legal representation the need for advocates who speak solely for a child’s best interests is more important than ever. An agency alone cannot keep a child safe — it takes a community.

A few key benefits of CASA advocacy include:

n Children with a CASA are half as likely to spend time in long-term foster care;

n Nationally, fewer than 10 percent of children with a CASA re-enter the foster care system; and

n CASA volunteers spend most of their volunteer time in contact with a child; to a child that means the continuity of at least one caring adult presence in his or her life.

Columbia Gorge CASA is able to advocate for half of our communities’ children in need, but the other half is still waiting — for you. All volunteers receive 30 hours of pre-service training using the National CASA Volunteer Training Curriculum, as well as 12 hours of in-service training per year.

New advocate training sessions will begin in January 2014.

For more information about the CASA program contact Susan Baldwin, advocate manager, at 541-386-3468 or 541-490-3063.

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