180 foster youth on waiting list for CASA volunteer - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

180 foster youth on waiting list for CASA volunteer

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - If you've always wanted to help a foster child, but aren't in the position to foster or adopt this could be the perfect fit.

There's currently a shortage of volunteer CASAs, which as Court Appointed Special Advocates who help foster kids navigate through the court system.

As Mia waits to find her forever family, she knows there is one person she can always count on - Jere McInerney is Mia's CASA and the two have shared a number of adventures together, exploring San Diego.

“She is the most delightful young lady. She is curious, she's loving, really smart,” said McInerney.

Part of McInerney's role as a CASA is to make sure Mia's educational needs are being met.

“She's moved a lot, she's been in one home, and then she was in another home, and now she's in another one,” McInerney continued. “So she's had to change school three times and she's only in second grade.”

But at least, Mia has her CASA by her side to help make the moves and transitions in foster care a little easier. 

“She's had a lot of changes especially in the last year and a half,” said McInerney.

CASAs spend about 10 to 15 hours a month with the foster child they're assigned to help and as sworn officers of the court, CASAs make recommendations to the judge on what they feel is best for that child.  

As a former teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent, it was a perfect fit for McInerney. 

“I was in education for a long, long time, so obviously I love kids,” McInerney noted.

But you don't have to be an educator or have experience with courts to become a CASA. 

“Our volunteers generally are not lawyers or paralegals they come from every walk of life,” Sharon Lawrence with Voices for Children.

The non-profit organization, Voices for Children, provides the training for CASAs and right now there's a shortage of volunteers and currently about 180 foster children are on the waiting list to be matched with a CASA who becomes a voice for children. 

“CASA volunteers really are that one consistent individual in that child's life, because foster parents may change, judges may change, attorneys and social workers may change, but we really ask our volunteers to make an 18 month commitment,” said Lawrence.

Many CASAs stay on much longer than that and some have stayed on for well over a decade.

“Often times the volunteers tell me their lives are changed because of the work they do,” Lawrence added.

And that's the case for McInerney, who, after a long and successful career working with children, says her experience as a CASA has touched her heart like nothing else.

“Just the most rewarding thing in the whole wide world. It is just the best,” said McInerney.

There's a need for CASA volunteers, specifically for bilingual, Spanish speaking volunteers. 
  
Click here for more information on Voices for Children.

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