This month has been deemed National Child Abuse Prevention Month in order to draw attention to the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect.
One of the organizations here in Colorado Springs dedicated to working toward bettering children’s lives for more than 30 years is CASA of the Pikes Peak Region. These 30 days are just a platform to aid them in reaching the community about their cause.
Appointing Community Volunteers
The CASA movement began in 1977 when Seattle Superior Court Judge David Soukup found he was having to make decisions on children’s welfare utilizing the sparse information available to him. This led him to start the program of appointing community volunteers to be a voice for the children and speak up for their best interests.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates and presently, our community has about 400 volunteers representing children in the El Paso and Teller counties. Although that sounds significant, CASA Executive Director, Angela Rose, notes there are still children who are underserved.
“At any given time, there are about 150-200 kids who still need to be served, even with 400 volunteers right now,” she states.
CASA volunteers become a constant for kids who are removed from their homes and sometimes even their schools while they can’t be with their parents. It’s so much chaos and change in a time where routine and structure in child development is paramount.
“Any time you are going through adversarial times, having that one person can make all the difference. And I really believe the CASA is that for these kids,” says Rose.
Caring for Kids
Volunteers take about three to five hours per week over an 18- to 24-month time period to support a child. During that time, the CASA volunteer will work with parents, foster parents, guardian ad litems, teachers, as well as the child to get a holistic view of the situation to include in their reports provided to the judges to aid in making decisions on behalf of the child.
When asked who would make a good candidate for a volunteer, Rose notes, “The wisdom of the community is what CASAs bring. If someone loves and cares for kids, then CASA can teach the rest.”
CASA of the Pikes Peak Region has additional programs, as well, that have been developed over their 33 years through the Milton Foster Children’s Fund (MFCF).
Learning Life Skills
The Hanger is a boutique-style shop where kids in foster care can come and “shop” new or gently used donated items that can be their very own. They are allowed five items per week – with no judgment and no budget. Kids are able to work in the Hanger as well to help build their resume. Teen Life Skills & Events classes are offered once or twice a month as well to make sure kids are being taught practical life skills.
“Many of these kids emancipate out of the family and we are just trying to give them the best chance,” Rose notes.
If you are in a position to donate or volunteer, you can visit the website to see what opportunities are available.
Facebook + Instagram: @CASAPikesPeak