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CASA

Our goal is simple – to speak up for every child’s right to a safe and permanent home.

“Court Appointed Special Advocates,” a volunteer-based program, passionately advocates for abused and neglected children who are caught up in the court and child welfare maze because they are unable to live safely at home.  Imagine what it would be like to lose your parents, not because of something you did, but because they can’t—or won’t—take care of you. In an overburdened social welfare system, abused and neglected children often slip through the cracks. Into these vulnerable children’s lives come dozens of strangers: police, foster parents, therapists, social workers, judges, lawyers, and more.  Hopefully, one of these strangers is a CASA volunteer because they provide that one constant person that children need in order to thrive

SPOT LIGHT ON A PREMIER WORCESTER YOUTH AND FAMILY CASA VOLUNTEER

Karleen Hagan, CASA Volunteer

DUTIES: Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) are trained to advocate for children in the child welfare system; the most vulnerable children in our community. As a CASA, Karleen’s role is to advocate for the child’s best interest after developing a relationship with the child, conducting independent research, and communicating with all members of the case, including miscellaneous collateral’s, the Department of Social Services, public defenders, and both the family Magistrate and Judge. In their roles, CASA’s work very hard to ensure a child receives all the services necessary (and then some), and ultimately is placed in a safe and permanent loving home.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND: I was born in Washington DC but lived in many cities during my almost 40 years (on the ground) with American Airlines. I ‘retired’ from AA to serve 8-12 years in the government with FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Amazing adventures with both organizations! I then seriously retired and relocated to the Eastern Shore where I have family.

Before there was an age limit law, I babysat at the age of 9 and haven’t stopped!! Drawn to nurturing little ones, in 1982, I stepped it up and was a mentor at Haven of Grace, a home for unwed mothers. This led to becoming a respite foster parent and this rewarding 27-year journey brought me to the Worcester County CASA program in 2018. I had a case right away and when that ended got my second one, which is currently active.

BEST PART OF YOUR VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE: The CASA program is multi-layered with serving the children as their advocate and giving them an additional voice leads the list. As the saying goes, “it takes a village”, well you quickly learn it takes a village to be a successful advocate. The CASA village consist of obvious players: teachers, doctors, lawyers, DSS, law enforcement, relatives, and CASA team to name a few. In fact, it is the CASA staff who are the thread that is key to successfully navigating the unique issues with each case.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE FACED: They come in many forms and are unique to each case. Interpreting court actions, lawyer requests, DSS reports and understanding the process is all made manageable by those that support us at WY&FCS. Understanding the non-family players actions and positions, is key to understanding the family situation and creating the best plan for the children.

WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE OTHERS TO KNOW: Know that your participation is no small contribution in the life of your CASA child. Through the CASA lens, there are all sorts of possibilities that may be overlooked by the other organizations. Stay balanced between both worlds, but when it becomes lopsided, reach out to the CASA team. They have walked the walk and sharing experiences provide ongoing training and support. You are never alone.

As Dr. James Dobson once said: “No man (or woman) stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.”

CASA PROGRAM STAFF STATEMENT ABOUT KARLEEN: Karleen is an incredible advocate, always taking initiative, standing up for what is right and adding a tremendous value of information to every case she is assigned. Karleen is a force to be reckoned with when on the path to advocate for the best interests of the children she is assigned to, but never sets her continued respect, sincerity, kindness and generosity aside. She is impossibly dedicated to her research and has been a vocal and integral player in positively changing the direction of many of the court hearings she has been involved in. We are so incredibly fortunate and grateful to have such a nurturing, kind-hearted and driven person like her as part of the CASA team!

For more information about becoming a CASA, email Nina Tomaselli, Volunteer Coordinator at  ntomaselli@gowoyo.org.

THE PROBLEM: OVERWHELMED SYSTEMS
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THE SOLUTION: CITIZEN VOLUNTEERS
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THE RESULTS: BRIGHTER FUTURES
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For more information contact Jerrona Smith, CASA Director, at jsmith@gowoyo.org or visit the National CASA Association website at www.casaforchildren.org.

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