These unpaid volunteers represent children who have been removed from their families due to abuse or neglect. They aren’t foster parents. They are CASA volunteers.
On Feb. 1, 2019, Judge Elizabeth Berns swore in 21 new Court Appointed Special Advocates with these words.
On behalf of King County Superior Court, our Dependency Courts and Family Treatment Court, I acknowledge and thank you for the commitment are about to make to be a Court Appointed Special Advocate—to be a critical voice speaking to the concerns and the needs of so many neglected and abused children in our community.
In 2018, our court addressed the needs and interests of more than 3000 children. With the increase of parents struggling with the disease of addiction, decline in good mental health, homelessness and unemployment, I do not expect that we will see fewer children in our system.
And while it can feel discouraging and sometimes overwhelming to think about how many children we see in dependency, I encourage you to focus on the reality that what you do makes a positive difference—which in turn can have a magical ripple effect through generations. Together we can be hopeful, joyful, and thoughtful.
We will frequently see you in our calendars, and less frequently in trial. The Court pays close attention to the reports you will write. While presiding over the calendars, I frequently turned to the CASA report to get a more accurate read on what was going on in the family. I looked to the CASA report to inform me about children with special medical and mental health needs, children who had a particularly traumatic experience and those children who are marginalized—including the many children who are navigating their way along a spectrum of gender identity and expression. What I expected of others (social workers and attorneys) when it came to understanding a particular child, is what the CASA modelled. In other words, you frequently set the bar for how we should be affirming children and supporting their needs.
Your time on the calendars may be brief, a mere fraction of the time you have given to a case. However, your impact and perspective is long-lasting.
At trial, I rely on the CASA to learn about appropriate outcomes for children. I want some assurances that the order I may put into effect will not create harm moving forward.
In Family Treatment Court, you will have an additional opportunity to spend time collaborating with others as a member of a team supporting family reunification and recovery.
As you embark on this journey, please take good care of yourselves. We are traumatized by what we see, hear and read, and by the questions we must ask and the answers we receive. Exposure to secondary trauma has a cumulative effect. Tend responsibly to your own needs so you can be fully present for others.
If you are interested in becoming a CASA volunteer, go to kingcountycasa.org