Posted by Kathryn Taylor
 
Monday evening, April 2nd, our guest speaker Cheryl Martone who is the Director of the Volunteer Program - Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Rhode Island.  CASA was developed "by the Family Court in 1978 in answer to the need for advocacy for those children who had been abused and/or neglected, and through no fault of their own, found themselves involed with the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and the Family Court."
 
Although she would be happy to accept financial donations, Cheryl was searching for more volunteers for the over 3,000 children in need.  A child will often spend 21 months in the system and will be relocated three times into foster care.  Relocation could mean a different community, separation from siblings, with a new school and friends each time.
 
It takes eighteen months for a case to get through the court system.  During that time, a CASA volunteer may be the only consistent voice for the child to make sure that the child is safe and receiving all the help available.  That means the volunteer follows the child through all the moves - a commitment of eight to ten hours a month for eighteen months.
 
At this time there are only 200 volunteers available for 3,000 children - only 15% have an Advocate.  The goal of CASA is to get kids into a permanent and safe home so they can survive.  As they note in their brochure, "too many children in the child welfare system lose their families, their rights and their hope."  "In advocating for an abused or neglected child, you give that child a voice - and a chance for a better life.  For more information contact Cheryl at 401.458.3330 or email casa@courts.ri.gov
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