BY JANET MANDELSTAM
Due to an increase in abuse and neglect cases in Monroe County, more than 100 children have been waiting for a CASA—a Court Appointed Special Advocate—to represent their interests in court. So the Monroe County CASA office has created a new position to monitor the children until permanent advocates become available.
Called Child Visit Monitors, the first class was trained in July. “The volunteers visit the child once a month wherever they have been placed—in foster care, with family relatives, in kinship care—and report back to the CASA office on the welfare of the child,” says Program Manager Susan Wannamaker. “They are our eyes and ears.”
Supported by a grant from the state CASA office, Monroe County offered nine hours of training and began assigning monitors to cases over the summer. “The goal is still for every child to have a CASA,” Wannamaker says, “but this is another opportunity to be involved in serving children.”
Child Visit Monitors must be at least 21 years old, have internet access for reporting, and commit to five hours a month and at least one year of service. Moreover, she says, “They need to be open-minded and compassionate about situations they may not have experienced before.”
The program has attracted both experienced CASA participants and new volunteers.
Mary Beth O’Brien has been involved with CASA intermittently since 2001. “I’m not able to give the time and energy now [as an advocate], but I can definitely do this,” O’Brien says.
She was recently assigned to her second case as a monitor. “The children’s needs are addressed while the parents get their act together,” O’Brien explains. “That’s what we’d like to happen, but it can take months or years.” Meanwhile, she says, “CASA provides a consistent voice for the child.”
“For people who have an interest in the work of CASA, this is a great entry point,” Wannamaker says.
For more information or to apply, visit monroecountycasa.org.