Advocates Needed for Vulnerable Children
Friends of Children’s CASA volunteer info sessions to be held September 14th and September 26th
Elena Mamatas of Deerfield is a protector of vulnerable children. As a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Friends of Children, Mamatas knows that her sole responsibility is to protect the rights of the children appointed to her and to ensure that their individual needs are met.
“I am proud to volunteer as a CASA because it’s so obvious that our work makes a huge difference in the lives of the kids we support. There’s no question about it. Nobody else is focused solely on the needs of this one child, while also having access to everyone involved in that child’s life: parents, foster parents, judges, case workers, teachers, therapists, and doctors. We meet regularly with our child and collaborate with their many collaterals to make sure these kids get what they need. We make sure that no child gets lost in the shuffle.”
“I think most people are somewhat aware that children in state care face many challenges. However, through this volunteer experience I’ve realized just how deep the rabbit hole goes– the challenges facing these kids are more pervasive than I ever imagined. As a CASA, we get to be part of the solution. This is crucial and rewarding work, and I feel honored to be a part of it. ,” Mamatas says.
Mamatas is one of 30 CASA volunteers helping to improve the lives of children who have suffered from abuse and neglect. While no special background is required, potential volunteers are thoroughly screened to insure appropriateness for the role.
All volunteers receive in-depth training to advocate in court and in the community for the needs and rights of children in foster care; they come from all walks of life and professions and have one thing in common: They care about kids.
Friends of Children operates the Franklin/Hampshire CASA Program and is hosting the following 60-minute information sessions in September for anyone interested in becoming a CASA volunteer:
Wednesday, September 14th from 2:30-3:30 PM in Hadley
Monday, September 26th from 6:00-7:00 PM in Greenfield
The sessions are free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required by calling (413) 586-0011 or emailing email@example.com. Bilingual volunteers are especially encouraged to attend.
“Volunteers get to know the child they represent by talking with everyone in that child’s life: parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others. They use the information they gather to inform judges and others of what the child needs are and how best to give them permanency,” explains Debi Belkin, CASA Program Director at Friends of Children.
Friends of Children’s CASA volunteers complete a 27-hour pre-service training. Once assigned to a case, they can expect to spend an average of about 15 hours a month getting to know the child, gathering information, exploring resources to meet the child’s needs, representing the child in court and writing reports. Volunteers receive ongoing education and support.
To learn more, contact Friends of Children at 413-586-0011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.