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York County Court advocate program needs volunteers

York County Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, CASA, is an organization that is dedicated to ensuring secure living conditions for the 300 to 400 vulnerable children who have been placed into York County’s dependency system. CASA volunteers are individually empowered by the court to stand up for these abused and neglected children. They take on these responsibilities until the child is either reunited with their parents or adopted.

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This is done by:

  • Gathering information about the child and their family, background and current circumstances on behalf of the judge.
  • Advocating for the child by providing information to the court and making fact-based recommendations regarding what is in the child’s best interest.
  • Monitoring court orders and case plans to ensure services are carried out and court orders and plans are followed.
  • Identifying resources and services the child and family may need.
  • Being a source of stability, care and support in the child's life.

Currently there are 54 trained CASAs and each of them have at least one case that they are committed to support. One of the advocates, Betsy Keefer, has been volunteering since September 2015.

“My favorite part of being a CASA is to know that I am providing support to a vulnerable child in the system,” Keefer said. “It may be saying something significant in court or connecting with a child during a monthly home visit. CASAs are in the unique position of having access to all the services a child may be receiving, trying to assess what is going on, identifying gaps and reporting to the court. Succeeding in any of the above is what provides job satisfaction.”

Tom Mudrick, who has been an advocate since 2017, encourages anyone interested in becoming an advocate to have confidence.

“You can and will make a difference for vulnerable and at-risk children,” Mudrick said. “Know that your time and energy will mean a difference in the lives of children. Know that when you speak and advocate on behalf of children, you will be heard.”

Leslie Brooks, who has been an advocate since 2017, has the most to say about the program’s opportunities and value it brings to her life.

“I actually signed up to volunteer for CASA and another organization, but it was through CASA that I felt I truly was contributing and making a difference for children and for their families,” Brooks said.

She was gratified by the support from CASA’s staff through the program’s comprehensive training.

“I have always believed in the value of being a lifelong learner and CASA has provided me with this opportunity,” said Brooks, whose favorite part of the program is meeting the families involved with her children and strategizing how best to advocate for their kids. “I learn something new each day and feel that I am able to apply that growth to my work with my CASA families.”

The York County CASA program is grateful for its volunteers, however, we still lack enough volunteers to serve all of the children in need. CASA is calling for caring and responsible individuals to serve as advocates for these children. All potential volunteers will go through an application and screening process and are carefully selected.

The eight-week CASA 2020 spring training will begin on Tuesday, March 17, and continues every Tuesday and Thursday evening until Tuesday, May 12 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. The application deadline is Tuesday, March 3. For more details about the York County CASA program, please feel free to attend an information session at noon or 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 11, in the 3rd floor conference room in the York County Judicial Center at 45 N. George St., York.

Please call 717-771-9754 to register. Come out and join the York County CASA team to see what it's all about for yourself.

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