CASA volunteers needed as system faces shortage
BATON ROUGE - Court Appointed Special Advocates play one of the most crucial roles in a potential foster child's life, and they're in high demand right now.
"They speak up for abused and neglected children that are currently in the foster care system," said Sarah Tranchina, recruitment coordinator.
Volunteers spend 10 to 15 hours a month on their case and are in constant communication with the child, helping to determine the best option.
"The judge has to determine the placement of the child if the child should go back to the parents, if they should be adopted, if they should go to an aunt or an uncle. They don't have enough information a lot of times to make that decision so, the CASA volunteer only has one case so they can focus on one child," Tranchina said.
Brooke Stikes was a CASA volunteer in 2017. She worked for eight months with a 2-year-old girl who came into the foster system after medical abuse and neglect.
"She was always smiling, laughing, loved to play with everyone. She was a really great kid," Stikes said.
To her, being a volunteer was rewarding and essential in keeping kids safe.
While CASA doesn't organize foster programs, its advocates are on the front lines. And seeing the shocking failure on display this week, where a child died and foster parents were arrested, hits close to home.
"It's definitely a sad situation when you see a child was in foster care and something happens like that... Where they end up dying, you know, due to abuse. It's very sad," Stikes said.
Like the rest of the foster system, CASA too is facing a crisis of a volunteer shortage due to COVID and Hurricane Ida.
"We have over 60 kids who need a CASA volunteer, so just to be able to come into a child's life and be their voice and advocate for their best placement, that's really our goal," Stikes said.