CASA looks for volunteers to represent children in court system

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Socorro
Court Appointed Special Advocates is an agency made up of volunteers who work with children in our community who are in foster care homes because they were victims of abuse or neglect.
Ginni Jones, executive director of Rio Grande CASA out of Truth or Consequences, is looking for volunteers in the Socorro County area.

“Simply put, volunteers are trusted adults who are empowered by the courts to ensure that each child is well cared for and able to find a safe, loving and permanent home,” she said.
Their primary job is to check and get assurances that things are going right in foster homes.
“We have great foster parents and then other parents that don’t do a lot,” Jones said. “Our volunteers maintain close contact with the foster child throughout the process. I sometimes ask them to go by foster homes weekly. Sometimes things change so quickly.”

She said volunteers are ordinary folks from all backgrounds.

“Most are mature adults and most are over 50,” Jones said. “Time spent each month is usually only five to 10 hours on average.”

Volunteers are trained, supported, supervised and part of the court process, making recommendations to the Judge for the best interest of these children.

After volunteers take a standardized 30-hour training course they are sworn in by a judge and then assigned cases.

“It’s a court order. Volunteers have the right to go out and investigate cases,” Jones said. “They then make a report and send the reports to attorneys.”

CASA is the only agency that isn’t represented by an attorney.

“Our judges really do rely on them,” she said. “We can be the middle man that is in the position to make peace between CYFD, the parents and the attorneys. Sometime the voice of CASA makes a big difference. In this way you have an opportunity to make a positive difference in a child’s life.”

“A judge formed the CASA program back in the 70s because he felt he didn’t always have all the facts he needed in deciding on a child’s life,” she said.

Locally, the agency serves Socorro, Catron and Sierra counties.

On Dec. 21 CASA had a Christmas party for the Socorro foster children and their foster families at the Socorro Youth Center. Youth Program Coordinator Cindy Rivera donated the use of her building and arranged for the Christmas decorations and made sure Santa was there to give the children their gifts.

“It was the Mary Kay Cosmetics ladies – Peggy Mitchusson, Ivy Corral and Felicia Johnson — who came up with the idea to collect toys for the foster children,” Jones said. “They did an amazing job of it, too, with the help of Aaron’s Sales and Lease, which matched each $20 toy donation with a $40 credit on purchases.”

Jones said there were plenty of toys for all the children and even enough left over to give to the Sierra County foster children. CASA volunteers provided food and drinks and Albertson’s donated cookies and sweets.

“There were just so many people that made the effort to make Christmas a festive time for the kids,” Jones said. “The old saying that it takes a community to raise a child is so true.”
For more information and an application, contact Jones at rgvcasa@windstream.net or call 838-4031 or 575-740-4068.