New round of volunteers train to advocate for foster children
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) — A new round of volunteers are now training to help foster kids in Middle Georgia.
According to Macon-Bibb, the Central Georgia Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) just began training with more future volunteers. These volunteers will eventually work with the court system, DFCS, and other agencies in order to support children in foster care, as well as be advocates for children of the system to make sure they’re getting the support and services they need.
CASA Executive Director Susanna Patterson says that these volunteers really get to know the kids, and as these children often have to acclimate to new homes, new schools, new situations, and more, volunteers can provide a sense of stability and normalcy through the process as a constant in the child’s life.
Patterson says that there’s a direct link between being in foster care and later participation in the criminal justice system, as 70%-80% of the prison population nationally is made up of people who were in foster care, and by age 17, over half of youth in the system have been arrested or spent the night in a correctional facility.
Mayor Lester Miller says, “If we’re going to prevent future crime, we need to start earlier and earlier…making sure our children are supported, are loved, and are the center of our worlds,” and, “With Central Georgia CASA, we can connect the most loving people in our community with the children who need them the most.”
The Macon Violence Prevention Program helped CASA in reaching out to a wider volunteer base, as CASA is bringing in a focus on youth aged 12 and up– as it has the fewest volunteers.
Patterson says anyone can be a volunteer– though they are looking for people that have a heart for children and have their best interests in mind to advocate for them. Macon-Bibb says retired educators and nurses make great volunteers, but CASA is in need of more men as volunteers, as only 3 of 50 volunteers with the program are men. All volunteers go through 5 sessions of training and 10 hours of observation at juvenile court. The time commitment to be a volunteer is 10-15 hours a month– mostly through phone calls and checking on case work, though, they do ask that volunteers meet with the child in person at least once per month.
Patterson also says, “Our volunteers are focused on getting children back with parents or a permanent home, as well as graduating high school,” and, “Kids with volunteers do better in school, have better home stability, and are better behaved in and out of school.”