So much has changed in the last year, but what hasn’t changed is the impact a CASA volunteer advocate has in the life of a child.
Each year, hundreds of children come to the attention of New Hampshire’s courts as the victims of abuse or neglect and they need someone to speak up for their best interests.
CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, of New Hampshire, provides highly trained volunteers who step into that role, ensuring that when a judge is making decisions about a child’s future, there is someone there to speak to what is happening in the child’s life and make recommendations about what is best for the child alone.
For more than 30 years, this work has happened through in-person meetings with a child and the important people in their lives. It’s meant attending court hearings and standing up before a judge to speak about the child. But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, that all changed.
CASA volunteers have continued their advocacy through online chat like FaceTime and Zoom, texting, and visiting through socially distanced measures when weather permits. For months, they have attended court hearings telephonically or through WebEx.
CASA volunteer advocates have been the certainty in uncertain times for the children they serve.
CASA continues to recruit, screen and train new volunteers virtually with monthly live information sessions, interviews and training. CASA’s training team took the 40-hour in-person training and created an engaging and interactive training using Zoom and Google Classroom.
In addition to allowing CASA to continue training new volunteers despite the inability to be together in a classroom setting, virtual training has made it possible for people who need more flexibility with the initial time commitment to learn and prepare for the role, to complete the training from the comfort of their own home, without having to travel to and from class.
Between virtual training launch in May and the end of the final 2020 class in December, CASA trained more than 100 new volunteer advocates. But the need persists, particularly in the North Country. And there remains the possibility that when children return to school full-time statewide, abuse and neglect that may have gone unseen for many months will create a surge of new cases.
You can make a difference in a child’s life in the New Year. Beginning in January, a new schedule of virtual trainings is set to begin. New virtual info sessions will be held three times a month beginning on Jan. 6.
For more information, go to casanh.org. Sign up to attend an info session, apply to become a volunteer or make a donation to sustain this work.