CASA volunteers help children who have no one else.
The program’s local director, Barbara Perea Casey, said community volunteers are part of the Court Appointed Special Advocates program and are highly trained individuals who are the voice for children who are removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect.
“Our volunteers meet and talk with children in foster care to find out if they are doing OK, are they happy and adjusting in the foster home. They also talk to foster parents, teachers, counselors — anybody who comes in contact with the child,” she said. “When there is a hearing, they report to the judge and make recommendations in what is the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child is the main focus of the work a CASA volunteer does.”
The local CASA program covers the entire Fourth Judicial District, which consists of Mora, Guadalupe and San Miguel counties. Perea-Casey said the majority of cases come from Las Vegas.
Perea Casey said the job of the volunteer is crucial.
“The work the CASA volunteer does determines if it is best that a child stay in foster care, be adopted, or returned to his or her family. All of those things need to be taken into consideration,” Perea-Casey said.
Highlands University English professor Holly Middleton said she wanted to be involved with helping kids.
“There’s such a need. I’m not ready to become a foster parent yet, but I think this is something I can do,” Middleton said.
David Martinez is a retired chemist who worked with lasers at the national laboratory in Albuquerque.
“I grew up here. I was educated here, loved here, cared for here, and it’s time to give back,” Martinez said.
Board President Ted Herburger said volunteers do a great service for their community and the service is personally rewarding.
“We just lost five volunteers because they went on to become foster parents. These six volunteers replace them, but we have more children than there are volunteers for. We’d be delighted to have more,” Herburger said.
Perea Casey said she is always looking for people to become involved, because there are children on a waiting list. A CASA volunteer must be 21, able to attend the required 30-hour training and able to meet with an assigned child once a month.
The CASA office is open weekday mornings, and is at the Rodriguez Park softball complex at the end of Grant Street. Call 454-0223 for more information on the program.