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CASA puts out a call for volunteer advocates, Pahrump training starts soon

“Economic hardship correlates to rising incidents of child abuse.”

It’s a somber and disheartening statement from the Nevada CASA Association but one that the organization wants everyone to understand.

With COVID-19 taking its toll all around the state and job loss at an incredibly high level, the strain of the current situation can spill over into abuse and neglect, meaning more children removed from their homes and placed in foster care. Those children all deserve a voice that is dedicated to them and their best interests, and that is where a Court Appointed Special Advocate comes in.

“The Nevada CASA Association announces Nevada faces a critical shortage of volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates to serve as the voices for children in the foster care system. With a direct correlation linking economic hardship with incidents of child abuse and neglect, new CASA volunteers are urgently needed,” a news release issued Tuesday, April 14 reads.

CASAs are trained volunteers who are sworn in and appointed to cases by a family court judge. These men and women put their time and energy into connecting with the foster youth they represent so they can speak on behalf of their physical, educational, medical, emotional and social needs. They also dedicate time to conversing with all of the people in the foster youths’ lives, ranging from social workers, attorneys and teachers to parents, family members, foster parents and health professionals.

“In addition to serving as part of the child(ren)’s case team, CASA volunteers establish a relationship with their child(ren), getting to know his or her unique history, while providing consistency and stability during an extremely difficult time in their child(ren)’s lives,” the new release details. “CASA volunteers are asked to remain with their child(ren) until a permanent home is achieved.”

All it takes is approximately eight to 10 hours per month to make a huge difference in the live of a child enmeshed in the foster care system. “Precedent indicates during times of economic stress for families, incidents of child abuse rise,” Nevada CASA Association Executive Director Jane Saint stated. “Already, we have a backlog of cases awaiting assignment of a CASA volunteer. When we emerge from the pandemic restrictions, we anticipate the need will be even greater.”

Locally, Pioneer Territory CASA is headed by executive director Kathie McKenna and covers both Nye and Esmeralda counties.

According to its website, the organization was able to add 15 new CASAs last year but the need is never-ending, with approximately 30 foster youth in Nye and Esmeralda counties still without a CASA to provide a voice for them.

“Pioneer Territory CASA thanks our Nevada Chapter for sending this press release. As many are aware, we always look for additional volunteers to train to become a child advocate,” McKenna responded when reached for details on how the local CASA organization is handling things during the COVID-19 crisis.

At the moment, PT CASA has modified its operations with the use of conference calling systems, which allow everyone to keep in contact while also keeping at a safe distance from one another. In addition, advocates are not currently visiting foster children in person. Instead, they are utilizing methods the youth they represent will be quite familiar and comfortable with, text messages, FaceTime and Skype.

PT CASA was scheduled to begin a new round of training for volunteer advocates at the beginning of March but with the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in Nevada, that session was disrupted and training was not completed. However, this delay creates an opportunity for others to get involved right now, as the next training begins tomorrow, Saturday, April 18 with orientation.

“Classes will start this Saturday with orientation and classes start online via conference call on Monday,” McKenna detailed. “If someone is interested they can contact our online application at www.ptcasanv.org. Go to ‘volunteers’ to read about becoming a CASA and if interested, contact us via the online application. If people hurry, they can start this weekend!”

Those outside of Nye and Esmeralda counties can get involved by visiting the Nevada CASA Association’s website at www.nvcasa.org and the state chapter will help connect potential CASAs with their local CASA organization.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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