CASA of the Mid-Shore Seeks Volunteer Advocates

CASA of the Mid Shore, a private, non-profit organization serving Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, and Kent Counties, is seeking volunteer advocates to work with children under court protection due to serious risk factors such as abuse, neglect, abandonment, or chronic truancy to ensure their right to thrive in a safe, permanent home. Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers come from all walks of life, varied backgrounds and professions, and must be least 21 years of age. After completing the application and screening process, individuals participate in pre-service training before being sworn in as an officer of the court. Once appointed to a child’s case, CASAs provide assessments and recommendations to the judge regarding the best interest of their appointed child.
CASA volunteers search for information that might be helpful to the court by talking with parents, teachers, relatives, physicians, therapists, attorneys, social workers, and others. They work closely with agency partners. Most importantly, the CASA gets to know the child and frequently becomes one of the most consistent adults in the child’s life. Numerous studies have found that when CASA is involved, outcomes for children improve.
Because of the program’s success with maltreated children, CASA of the Mid-Shore recently branched out to begin providing volunteer advocates to truant children as young as six years of age found by the Dorchester Circuit Court to need services. Dorchester Circuit Court Judge Brett Wilson, troubled by young children in his courtroom with multiple unexcused absences from school, conceived the groundbreaking concept of appointing CASA volunteers to some of these cases. With assistance from the Maryland Judiciary’s Department of Juvenile and Family Services, CASA of the Mid-Shore is providing volunteer Educational CASAs to some of the children coming before the Truancy Reduction Court in Dorchester County.
Not many people know that chronic truancy is a strong predictor of serious risk for children and families and often a symptom of deeper family or community issues. Research reflects that truant children are disproportionately: youth of color; from low income families; youth with special education needs; youth and families with mental health needs; and/or youth who have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Often these children are at increased risk of a host of problems including maltreatment, poor academic achievement, a low likelihood of graduating from high school, low self-esteem, homelessness, juvenile delinquency, mental health issues, hunger, and malnourishment.
Unfortunately, truancy continues to increase, as do waiting lists for services to truant children and their families in Dorchester County. The Court Appointed Special Advocacy model has long shown effectiveness in connecting with youth, where one-on-one supportive relationships between CASAs and children have proven to be particularly effective with at-risk youth. By providing in-depth information to the Court and advocating for children’s best interest, CASA volunteers have opportunities to guide truant youth, while also connecting them and their families to community resources to meet their needs.
CASA of the Mid-Shore is currently accepting applications from men and women from Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, and Kent Counties who are interested in becoming CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteers and/or Educational CASAs. Volunteers from all cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds are welcomed. We encourage African-American community members to apply.
To learn more about becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate visit casamidshore.org or email jc@casamidshore.org.