“CASA volunteer Beverly Ann Ferguson and CASA Board member Brett Summers share their hopeful messages during Volunteer Appreciation Week.”
CASA of the Mid-Shore, a private, non-profit organization serving Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, and Kent Counties, seeks volunteer advocates to work with children under court protection to ensure their right to thrive in a safe, permanent home. Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers come from all walks of life, backgrounds, and professions, and must be at least 21 years of age. After completing the application process, individuals participate in pre-service training before being sworn in as an officer of the court. Once appointed to a child’s case, CASAs provide assessments and recommendations to judges regarding the best interest of their appointed children.
CASA volunteers talk with parents, teachers, relatives, physicians, therapists, social workers, agency partners, and others to get a clear picture of the child’s situation. Most importantly, the CASA gets to know the child and frequently becomes one of the most consistent adults in the child’s life. A recent study found that CASA’s involvement helps children feel more hopeful while also helping to improve outcomes for children. Better outcomes can include academic success, overall wellbeing, increased self-control, positive social relationships, and optimism.
At the request of Dorchester Circuit Court Judge Brett Wilson, CASA of the Mid-Shore recently branched out to provide volunteer advocates to truant children, some as young as six years of age, found by the Circuit Court to need services. With partial funding from the Maryland Judiciary’s Department of Juvenile and Family Services, Educational Advocates are speaking up for some children involved with the Truancy Reduction Court in Dorchester County with the belief that change is possible.
Few people know that chronic truancy is a strong predictor of serious risk for children and families and often a symptom of deeper family or community issues. Children with chronic truancy are at increased risk of a host of problems including maltreatment, poor academic achievement, a low likelihood of graduating from high school, low self-esteem, homelessness, juvenile delinquency, mental health issues, hunger, and malnourishment.
Unfortunately, truancy continues to increase, as do waiting lists for services to truant children and their families in Dorchester County. The Court Appointed Special Advocacy model has long shown effectiveness in connecting with youth, where one-on-one supportive relationships between CASAs and children have proven to be particularly effective with at-risk youth. By providing in-depth information to the Court and advocating for children’s best interest, CASA volunteers have opportunities to mentor truant youth, while also connecting them and their families to community resources to meet their needs.
CASA of the Mid-Shore is currently accepting applications from men and women from Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, and Kent Counties who are interested in becoming CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteers or Educational Advocates. Volunteers from all cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds are welcomed. We encourage African-American community members to apply.