Training offered for child-advocate volunteer workers
September 2, 2004
Nevada law requires a “guardian ad litem” to advocate for children removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. That’s where the volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates come in.
“We talk to every one who deals with the child, and we advocate for their best interests,” said CASA Director Chris Bayer.
But what’s a guardian “ad litem”?
In short, it’s spokesperson for the child, but the nuances of law require detailed training.
“I think we spend about 30 hours in training really defining the term,” Bayer said.
CASA of Carson City’s next training for new volunteers will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Carson City Juvenile Court Building, 1545 E. Fifth St. The training will include 10 three-hour sessions. The schedule will be set at the first meeting, taking everyone’s schedule into account.
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During a custody case, CASA volunteers interact with a child’s parents, foster parents, social workers, teachers, school counselors, therapists, parents’ attorneys and other family members.
“There can easily be 10 to 15 people who are all important to this child and this child’s case and it’s important to talk to all those people to get a perspective on what’s going on in addition to talking to the child,” said Bayer, who first volunteered with CASA in 1993 and became director in 1997.
“People who volunteer for CASA help children and find the experience very rewarding for themselves,” he said. “It’s challenging, it’s interesting, there’s a lot to learn, and there’s a lot of use for the common sense and the values that people bring from their lives.”
The Carson City branch of CASA, a national organization, was started by Soroptimist International in 1986. The local group currently advocates for 60 children, but the need for volunteers is growing.
“The number of children has gone up every year,” Bayer said. “We have managed to break even – to have enough volunteers over the years, but we would like to have someone in reserve.”
Carson City CASA volunteers deal mostly with child welfare cases but also some custody and restraining-order cases.
Prospective volunteers will not be rejected because of race, religious creed, gender, age or marital status. Fingerprints of all applicants are submitted to the FBI and local authorities for a background check. Volunteers must have a phone, transportation and a clean driving record.
There is no charge for the training. CASA asks for a two-year commitment from volunteers. A volunteer will be assigned one or two cases, depending on their schedule. A case can have one child or several children. Each case requires about 12 hours of time early on, then a couple of hours each month. Volunteers are required to attend all hearings. These take about two hours every three months.
Five new volunteers have already signed up for the next training.
On the Net:
Carson City CASA: http://www.casaofcc.org
National CASA: http://www.casanet.org
If You Go
What: CASA volunteer training
Where: Juvenile Court, 1545 E. Fifth St.
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Contact Karl Horeis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.