Kathie Stewart of Easthampton is a protector of vulnerable children.
As a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Friends of Children, Stewart knows that her sole responsibility is to protect the rights of the children appointed to her and to ensure that their individual needs are met.
“It’s one of the most personally rewarding experiences I’ve ever had,” she says, noting that she knows that the support and encouragement she is providing will not only mean the two children assigned to her are stronger and more stable as adults but their children and grandchildren as well.
“We help the generations of children that follow,” Stewart says.
Stewart is one of 31 CASA volunteers helping to improve the lives of children who have suffered from abuse and neglect.
All volunteers receive in-depth training to advocate in court and in the community for the needs and rights of children in foster care; they come from all walks of life and professions and have one thing in common: They care about kids.
An information session for anyone interested in becoming a CASA volunteer will be held Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. at Friends of Children, 245 Russell St. The session is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required by calling (413) 586-0011 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Volunteers get to know the child they represent by talking with everyone in that child's life: parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others. They use the information they gather to inform judges and others of what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for them,” explains Randee Laikind, CASA Program Director at Friends of Children.
Friends of Children’s CASA volunteers complete a 27-hour pre-service training. Once assigned to a case, they can expect to spend an average of about 15 hours a month getting to know the child, gathering information, exploring resources to meet the child’s needs, representing the child in court and writing reports. Volunteers receive ongoing education and support.
To learn more, contact Friends of Children at 413-586-0011 or email@example.com.