MANCHESTER – Twenty-five new volunteer advocates and two interns from 25 communities across New Hampshire and Vermont were the first to graduate from CASA of New Hampshire’s brand new virtual training that brings its comprehensive classroom-style training to your home.
Through a mix of “face-to-face” Zoom sessions with breakout groups and assignments in Google classroom, this new training opportunity is allowing CASA to continue its work preparing new volunteers to be ready to serve as advocates in court for more children when an expected surge of abuse and neglect cases arrives.
“The opportunity to be trained virtually is safe and convenient, and I never felt I didn’t glean all the necessary training, discussion, role play, and coaching that is vital to preparing me for this role,” said Brittney Joyce, a volunteer from Hanover who graduated from virtual training in June. “The most surprising part of virtual training was how well our trainers fostered a sense of community among our group – simple asks like keeping our cameras on for the duration of training, putting participants into breakout discussions, and asking us icebreaker questions for the Zoom chat at the beginning of each session helped all participants feel more connected to each other.”
Going virtual for training has also established the capability to train volunteers from every corner of the state at the same time to be ready to take new cases wherever they come in.
For 31 years, CASA’s classroom-style 40-hour training has been its cornerstone for preparing volunteers to provide courtroom advocacy for abused and neglected children. But when the governor issued a stay-at-home order in March, CASA’s training team responded by creating this fully-immersive, virtual pre-service training. This new approach to safely provide training is critical for the coming months.
“Within two weeks of the governor issuing his stay-at-home order, reports of abuse and neglected dropped by about 50 percent, not because it isn’t happening, but because it isn’t being seen by people like teachers and daycare providers who are the most common reporters,” said CASA of New Hampshire CEO and President Marty Sink. “We have started seeing cases reported more as the state re-opens, but we are expecting a surge of many more in the coming months and we need to have advocates trained and ready to take those cases.”
In addition to virtual training, CASA volunteers have been meeting with their children at least once a month via video chat, or having phone conversations, exchanging letters in the mail and, as the weather became nicer, started with some socially distanced visits in outdoor spaces.
More volunteers are critically needed. CASA is accepting applicants for future virtual training sessions beginning Aug. 3, Sept. 16, Oct. 19 and Nov. 10. Interested volunteers can submit their applications today, or, join an upcoming virtual information session to learn more about the role CASA volunteer advocates play in the lives of New Hampshire’s abused and neglected children. Virtual info sessions are held every other Tuesday. Learn more at casanh.org.