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Advocates for local foster children needed

July 17, 2012

CASA of the Eastern Sierra is looking for interested adults who would like to support local youngsters through a difficult period in their life. Photo courtesy metrocreativegraphics.com

Inyo County’s Court Appointed Special Advocate program is in need of a few good men and women.
CASA of the Eastern Sierra, a non-profit collaboration and partnership between Wild Iris Family Counseling and Crisis Center and the Inyo and Mono County Superior Courts, is seeking dedicated volunteers to advocate on behalf of foster children trying to navigate the often confusing and frightening dependency court system.
According to program leaders, “CASA volunteers are the bridge between the reality of a foster care or placement existence and a brighter future.”
After training and subsequent appointment by a judge, volunteers become advocates for children whose futures rest in the hands of Dependency Court judges. CASA volunteers work one-on-one with the children, biological and foster parents, teachers, therapists and others involved in the child’s life. They conduct independent investigations of a foster child’s circumstances, and communicate what the child desires or needs. Their findings are reported to the Court by the volunteer who advocates for the child.
“Imagine being a child removed from your parents and placed in the home of a stranger. It’s likely you are confused, frightened and uncertain as to what the future holds,” said Virginia Bird, Domestic Violence Task Force chair, Inyo Superior court assistant CEO, and Advisory/Steering Committee member for CASA of the Eastern Sierra. “We need CASA volunteers for children such as these. CASA volunteers provide the child with a sense of security, as well as serving in the critical role of being a voice, eyes and ears for the child.”
Interested volunteers must be at least 18 years of age and willing to commit at least one year to the program. Potential volunteers attend an orientation meeting, are interviewed, undergo a criminal background check and complete up to 36 hours of free, in-depth training before being sworn as a CASA volunteer.
“CASA volunteers are ordinary people who achieve extraordinary things. People of all backgrounds, careers, ethnicity, cultural experiences and life experiences are encouraged to apply,” said Lisa Reel, executive director of Wild Iris and executive director of CASA of the Eastern Sierra. “You’d be astounded by what a difference a single person can make in the life of a child within our court system.”
The first training for volunteers is scheduled to occur in September. Inyo and Mono counties are hoping to train 15-20 CASA volunteers in the kick-off event, with some 20 instructors and community leaders training the group. Trainings will be in Inyo and Mono counties, and those who complete the training will be certified CASAs for both Mono and Inyo counties.
Tammy Grimm, CEO of the Inyo Superior Court and Advisory/Steering Committee member of CASA of the Eastern Sierra, said that “the CASA volunteer is the voice of the community in the Court. We have been waiting for decades for a program and opportunity like this, and we are sure that both communities will be compassionate and supportive of this worthwhile cause.”
A website is being built for this new Eastern Sierra program and minimal information can be found, along with an initial application, at www.easternsierracasa.com.
For more information, contact Reel at (760) 873-6601 or lreel@wild-iris.org.

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