Documenting the Volunteer Training Experience (continued)

Jun 08 2015

By Janet Woodrome

This is the third in our series of blog posts by trainee Janet Woodrome documenting the volunteer training process. The next two classes she picked from the training curriculum were Practicing the CASA/GAL Role – Reporting & Monitoring and Understanding Children.

Class: Practicing the CASA/GAL Role – Reporting & Monitoring 

The number one complaint CASA supervisors have with volunteers — not turning their reports in time. It causes a major scramble.

This may sound like a small thing, but the judge reads the report the day before the hearing. Only CASA and CPS submit reports.

“It's an awesome opportunity and responsibility,” Trainer Shannon Moreno advised. The best timeline: start the report a month before a hearing. Two weeks before the hearing, give it to the CASA supervisor. The volunteer can update the judge in court if anything comes up after the deadline.

More advice: don't ask for anything the court can't order, such as requiring someone to become a citizen. And if CASA wants something ordered, like letting the kid be a cheerleader, the CASA volunteer must do all the research  into the cost, who would be ordered to carry it out, etc.

Also, no surprises. Stick to the comments approved by the supervisor. "I just thought of something" is not a good thing to say.

I can see it would be hard to resist an ad lib or two. Nope.

She said don't worry about public speaking. The oral report to the judge is very brief. And the supervisor is there to jump in if anything is left out. "It's totally okay," Shannon said.

I haven't done the required three-hour court visit yet. But another volunteer said it is not as "buttoned up" as you'd think.

"I love the judges," who are very compassionate, Shannon said.

Showing the judge a picture of the child or a piece of their art work is always a good idea. Nothing like the personal touch. But I guess that's what CASA is about.

Class: Understanding Children

The "system" is so sad for kids. Our trainer put us in touch with some of their feelings and hardships in the class on Understanding Children.

Trainer Shannon Moreno narrated the day of a 4-year-old who was interviewed at school and then removed by dinner time from her home. How terrifying, worrying if your parents are angry and getting arrested because you "told!" 

And she lands in a house of strangers saying, "This is your new home." Foster care. Say what?

The new caregivers are required to meet only the child's basic needs.  I know some people criticize their own upbringing by their parents, but foster kids aren't even guaranteed hope and encouragement.

We brainstormed on things kids need to grow up. Dozens of necessities filled the board, but only a fraction --  food, shelter, clothes, school, safety, medical care and hygiene -- are required.

Not required: love, emotional support, consistency, hobbies, friends, guidance and spirituality.

Shannon had a client who changed schools five times in one year. Often the kids lose credit for work done at an earlier school and have to repeat. Each school change usually sets them back six months educationally.

Helping collect the school records is a major way CASA volunteers can help them stay on track.

The good news is long-time foster kids can get free college tuition and fees if they agree to remain in state supervision past 18. But only 3 percent of them use the college benefit.

Bad news — about 75 percent of the PARENTS with kids placed in foster care were once foster kids too! The damage keeps rolling!