Colorado CASA recruiting 2,020 volunteers by December 2020
October 3, 2019
Colorado CASA has launched the “Change a Child’s Story” campaign in an effort to recruit 2,020 new CASA volunteers by the end of 2020. CASA volunteers are sworn officers of the court who serve as advocates for young people who are involved in the child welfare system and have often experienced abuse, neglect and other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
Last year — with only 2,179 CASA volunteers in Colorado — 4,857 children were assigned a CASA volunteer to walk beside them, representing approximately 37 percent of all children served through an open child welfare involvement in Colorado today. In addition to building a positive relationship with a child or teenager, trained volunteers assist the judge in making the most informed decision based on the child’s best interest. An encouraging and active community plays a vital role in supporting children and their families in the child welfare system, which makes the overall community stronger.
A link between adverse experiences in childhood and poor health outcomes later in life as an adult has been researched and clearly established over the last several decades. However, a new research study from Brigham Young University (BYU), published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, shows positive childhood experiences, like having a mentor, have the potential to negate harmful health effects caused by adverse childhood experiences.
“This new research underscores just how important positive childhood experiences are for our long-term health, especially for those who experience significant adversity as a child,” Jenny Bender, executive director of Colorado CASA, says. “We now have even more evidence that supportive communities and positive relationships with CASAs can help kids who have experienced abuse and neglect become productive citizens.”
Colorado CASA reports children in foster care who have a CASA volunteer are more likely to succeed in school, adjust to change, and feel a sense of purpose and worth. They are also half as likely to re-enter the foster care system later.
“For those who feel we have a shared responsibility to help children realize their full potential and fully contribute to Colorado’s future, becoming a CASA volunteer is the best way to change a child’s story. We hope this campaign will inspire more people over the next year to get involved and support children and families in their communities,” Bender says.
One CASA volunteer — one consistent adult — dedicated to that child’s well-being throughout that time period can make a big difference by reducing the amount of time a child may spend in foster care, ensuring the child and the family have access to vital resources, and helping strengthen and reunify families whenever possible.
Anyone over the age of 21 can serve as a CASA after a thorough interview, a background check and completing CASA training, much of which can be taken online. With an average of four hours a week, anyone, even working professionals and young adults, can change a child’s story as a CASA volunteer. Colorado CASA is in need of volunteers who represent the children being served, especially male volunteers and volunteers from diverse backgrounds.