- Family and Parenting
Find Your Place in the Foster Care System, Part 4: Mentors and Court Appointed Special Advocates
This article is Part 4 of the series "Find Your Place in the Foster Care System". See Part 1: Foster Parents, Part 2: Adoptive Parents, and Part 3: Foster/Adoptive Parents, Kinship Parents, and Respite Providers
Maybe you are burdened with the needs of children in foster care and feel compelled to help out in some way. However, you are unable, for whatever reason, to be a foster or adoptive parent. Foster children benefit from having a number of caring adults in their lives, including those who are able to commit only a few hours a week.
As a mentor, you can have a significant impact in the life of a foster child. Mentors can use their special gifts to reach children in a number of ways. Consider tutoring, coaching, and teaching life skills to the kids you come in contact with. Take a camping trip, teach them to cook, share your pets with them, or find any other way to help them have a normal and productive life. Teens who are transitioning into adulthood need to learn to handle finances, find a job, and fill out college applications. You can become a mentor simply by taking the time to reach out to kids you already know, or you can work with an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters. A formal commitment is not necessary, but make sure you are communicating with the child’s foster parents to keep everything above board.
Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
Court-Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, volunteers, are empowered by the court to act as advocates on behalf of children in foster care. As a CASA, you make a commitment to see a child’s case through until it is closed, an average of about one-and-a-half years. CASA volunteers gather information from everyone in the child’s life and use the information to help the judge make a determination about the best permanency plan for the child. You will need to take a training course and submit to a background check. You will also need to be available for court appearances. The average time commitment is about 10 hours a month. You do not need to be a lawyer or social worker, just an organized person with common sense who is interested in helping a child.
Other Ways to Help
Any contribution you can make to children in foster care will be appreciated. Photographers can donate their services to take pictures of children for adoption websites and Heart Gallery Exhibits. Even things like toys, clothes, luggage, play equipment, school supplies, and vehicles can make a difference in the lives of foster families.
There are numerous ways that you can get involved in the foster care system and make a difference in the life of a child. Consider what contribution you can make today.