SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A local social services organization is sending out a call to action to help the most vulnerable in our community.
Brightside Child and Family Advocacy needs more court-appointed special advocates or CASA’s to help children in foster care in Chatham County. There are currently 310 children in foster care here in Chatham County and there aren’t enough CASA volunteers for all of them.
“This is an opportunity to get very involved in a child’s life and actually change the trajectory of that child’s life,” Kate Blair, the executive director of Brightside.
The support CASA volunteers offer to children in foster care can be life-changing but the pandemic left many unable to continue their advocacy work.
“We need more advocates, we need more volunteers to step up in our community and volunteer to advocate for our children in foster care,” Blair said.
A CASA volunteer is a person appointed to a child in the system and their job is to help
meet the child’s needs.
“Every child that enters foster care has an attorney, they have a case manager at DEFAX, they have adults all surrounding them, but there’s one person that’s advocating for their best interests in the courtroom and that’s a casa volunteer,” Blair said.
Amy Potter has volunteered with Savannah-Chatham CASA for about three years.
“Being a volunteer for Savannah-Chatham CASA is probably one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever done,” Potter said.
Potter said being a child’s advocate goes beyond the work you do in the courtroom.
“Cases can last years, I’ve been in my current case for a couple of years now,” Potter said. “Councilors may change, they may navigate several schools in a year, they might be in several homes in a year, so you are this consistency, this constant.”
From helping them navigate their case to getting them support at school… casa’s play a crucial role throughout the entire process.
“One person that will remain in a child’s life through their entire time they are in foster care,” Blair said. “A CASA volunteer helps to ensure a child’s needs are being met at school, their health needs are being met, but also helping to identify ways that child can reach permanency, whether that’s being returned home to their family, adopted or guardianship.”
It’s tough work, but at the end of the day, it’s all about, “making sure those children don’t need to worry about basic needs that they can just focus on being a kid,” Blair said.
There are virtual information sessions coming up on Aug. 9 and Sept. 14 at noon. Pre-service training sessions begin on Thursdays beginning Aug. 18 and through Sept. 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. In order to qualify to become a volunteer, you must also be 21 years old.