“I wanted to work with children who were in crisis,” Moser said. “Those who had experienced a trauma and were in immediate need of whatever services...I could immediately provide.”
“We have CASAs that come from all different fields of work, fields of study. Some are college educated, some are not. They are all different ages. I think our youngest CASA is 25 and our oldest is 72.”
CASAs work through the Family Support Council in Whitfield and Murray and Moser said the agency is looking for more volunteers. Training classes begin next month.
According to information from the CASA organization:
“ The CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation by making sure a qualified, compassionate adult will fight for and protect a child’s right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect and to learn and grow in the safe embrace of a loving family.
“The lives and well being of children are hanging in the balance. Every child who cannot live safely at home should have a CASA volunteer who will help ensure their safe passage out of foster care, to the benefit of their children, and generations to come.”
CASA volunteers have several duties involving children who are placed in the care of the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) until the children find permanent placement.
“They do their own investigation of the case,” Moser explained. “They review all the facts of the case when they get it. They interview all parties involved in the case. They ask questions and track down answers. They are investigators. They obtain a first-hand knowledge of all the facts of the case and based on that, make their own recomendations to the Juvenile Court about what should happen to that child.
“They are kind of a second opinion to go along with DFCS recommendation. So the court gets DFCS recomendation and the recommendation of a lay person, who is trained to get to know the child involved.
“They work with DFCS to make sure the child is supported while they are in foster care. We kind of team up with DFCS.
“CASAs regularly visit the child in their placement to make sure that child is getting everything they need. They make recommendations to the department if they see something that they think would be beneficial to the child.
“They also represent the child’s wishes every time they go to court. So in addition to their recommendations, CASAs make sure that the judge is aware of what the child wants so the child always has a voice in court and they know that.”
Training for a CASA volunteer consists of a 30-hour eight-week training and ten hours of courtroom observation. There are local and federal background checks and every CASA participates in 12 hours annually of refresher training.
The office is located at 1529 Waring Road in Dalton. Anyone interested in training should call 706-272-7919. The next training begins Aug. 4 at 6 p.m.
Moser said that at times, through a relationship with a child, CASAs have discovered previous incidents of abuse and help the child navigate the reporting process.
“CASAs can advocate for the child to start having weekly meetings with a therapist who is trained to address that type of abuse instead of the monthly counseling, general session they had before that.
“CASAs are assigned to children who are adjudicated as dependents,” Moser said. “They have to be in DFCS custody or foster care because of abuse or neglect.”
Funding for the program comes from the state and the Family Support Council which is a United Way agency.
“It’s a volunteer position for people who are looking for something that is more of a commitment, that requires more involvement,” Moser said.
Emotional attachment is dealt with during the training sessions for CASA.
“Anyone who does this kind of work develops a skill of being able to feel responsible for something when you are in it, to really take it on and give it everything you have as if it’s yours,” Moser said. “Then when you walk out the door, to differentiate between their life and your own life; that’s been interesting to learn.”