The start of a new school year is an exciting time for most children. But for some, the beginning of school could reveal secrets when teachers, staff or other parents notice signs of abuse and/or neglect.
“Children are subject to less contact with those outside their home over the summer, it’s not uncommon for reports of suspected abuse and neglect to spike at the start of the school year,” said Mariah Lantz, CASA of Gila County coordinator.
“This means more children are being removed from their homes and placed into the foster care.”
As students return to school, the work of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer continues to be essential.
“Our CASA volunteers are in frequent contact with teachers and school administrators to form a relationship to better understand the child’s unique strengths and challenges. These interactions with the child’s school, combined with the volunteer’s relationship with the child, empower our CASA volunteers to advocate in court for what the child needs to thrive academically,” said Lantz.
On any given day, there are over 13,500 children and youth in Arizona living in foster care, with relatives, group homes, shelters, or residential treatment centers due to being removed from their parent’s care. There are 110 children in Gila County who do not have a CASA volunteer to advocate for their best interests.
“Being uprooted from their homes and families is scary for these children. We want to make sure they have a consistent, safe adult in their life, a CASA volunteer,” Lantz said.
“For that reason, we need our community to take action and make sure these children’s voices are heard.”
Studies show children with a CASA volunteer receive more services that are critical to their well-being than children without an advocate, and those children are more likely to achieve educational success.
No specific background or training is needed. Anyone 21 years of age or older, who can pass a thorough background check and complete 30 hours of free training, is encouraged to apply.