The family court system is looking for a few good people. They'd prefer foster parents...but barring that, there's a desperate need for C.A.S.A.'s....Court Appointed Special Advocates.
"I don't know if anyyhing can ever prepare you for this, really....I've seen things that kids have gone through that i would've never imagined," says Anthony, a C.A.S.A. volunteer.
Anthony has been a "CASA" for almost 10 years... And despite all of the worst he's seen, he keeps coming back...
"For me the reward of C.A.S.A. is to be there for a child who often times feel like they have no one...I can't imagine what that's like... Because I've been very fortunate," admits Anthony.
Anthony is one of about 200 volunteers who've been carefully screened, and then went through about 40 hours of training and orientation. They'll be asked to give anywhere from 2 to 10 hours a week advocating for the rights of a child in court.
"We ask a lot of the C.A.S.A. volunteers...we ask for a minimum of a 2 year commitment...going in and out of a child's life, and we want someone who's going to be there consistently, says Cheryl Meyer, a C.A.S.A. volunteer coordinator.
Back in July, 8 new volunteers graduated the C.A.S.A. program... Every one of them began working right away.
"...And you're responsible for writing a report to the court every 6 months... To update the judge on what's going on, and to make recommendations for the best interests of the child," says Meyer.
Family court judges depend on the CASA to give them the straight story.
So important, so valuable is the input of a CASA on any given case, that a judge will often continue a decision until a CASA can be assigned, and prepare a report.
"So many times the social worker will change cases, and so many people in a child's life will change, even foster parent will change, but when you realize you're that stabilizing force, then you realize you really are the voice of a child," explains Meyer.
But it's the successes that you see, it's bringing a smile to a child's face who had no hope before, it's giving that child an opportunity to blossom," says Anthony.
C.A.S.A. is recruiting more volunteers right now. Some 3000 foster children in the system, could really use the help. Call the Las Vegas office of the Adoption Exchange at 436-6335 for more information.