CASA of Southern Connecticut has been awarded a $60,000* Mentoring Grant from the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association for Children. CASA of Southern Connecticut recruits, trains, and supports volunteers to advocate for the best interests of children who have experienced abuse or neglect.
The Mentoring Grant will enable CASA of Southern Connecticut to increase the number of children served in its region: New Haven County initially, and eventually also Middlesex and New London counties. Volunteers will advocate for needs of at-risk and underserved youth, and help mentor them toward stronger connections with community and family, improved educational outcomes, and stable placements. Already, the opioid epidemic had driven the total number of children in foster care in the state—after a multi-year decline—to over four thousand in a given month. Now, amid the pandemic, it’s feared abuse and neglect are underreported with school buildings closed, and children in foster care face extra challenges visiting with their families. Volunteer advocates will be especially needed, with remote/online training available.
“This grant is key as we expand on our encouraging start-up in 2019. We have begun to serve children with carefully trained, supported volunteers,” said Josiah H. Brown, executive director of CASA of Southern Connecticut. “We look forward to continuing to work with the state’s Judicial Branch and Department of Children and Families (DCF), and encourage prospective volunteers of all backgrounds to apply to join this movement. Volunteer advocates help identify safe, permanent homes where children can thrive.” He added, “The competitive grant from National CASA provides financial resources and further confidence as we raise complementary funds locally to make CASA’s lean, volunteer-based approach widely available in our state.”
There are 950 CASA-affiliated programs nationwide, including 49 state offices, supporting volunteers who work on behalf of children in the child welfare system. Their advocacy enables judges to make the most well-informed decisions for each child.
The federal grant funds distributed through National CASA are provided by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice, as authorized under the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990. In 2019, National CASA was awarded nearly $7 million in federal grants.
About CASA of Southern Connecticut
After starting up and receiving federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit status earlier in 2019, CASA of Southern Connecticut launched its website (https://casasouthct.org/)—with information about the CASA role in advancing child welfare; how to volunteer; a growing Board of Directors; an Advisory Council; Ambassadors raising awareness; and how to donate to support this work.
Also recommended is a February 2020 feature on CASA of Southern Connecticut that Ann Nyberg of WTNH posted to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcYbjenzulE
As op-eds for Foster Care Month (May) and Reunification Month (June) described in the Connecticut Mirror and the New Haven Register, CASA of Southern Connecticut is dedicated to recruiting, training, and supporting volunteers to help determine and advance the best interests of children who have experienced abuse or neglect. These volunteers meet with children at least monthly, getting to know them and their circumstances—including teachers and social workers, foster parents and families. Carefully screened and trained through a systematic curriculum and part of a national network recognized for improving outcomes for kids, CASAs make evidence-based recommendations to judges. At the center: these caring, consistent volunteers’ relationships with the children themselves—with whom these adults can make a lifelong difference through one-on-one interactions at a difficult time.
The CASA network is expanding in Connecticut as a result of a 2016 state law, and is bolstered by a new statewide association, along with an established program in Fairfield County: CASA of Southwest Connecticut. Until now, only 1 percent of Connecticut’s children in foster care had CASAs, reflecting an unmet need and an enormous opportunity for volunteers to get involved.
In 2019, CASA of Southern Connecticut (and CASA of Northern Connecticut, working initially in New Britain/Hartford County) opened. The first volunteer cohort trained in December 2019 and began volunteer advocacy in juvenile courts early in 2020. A second cohort trained, using a modified online/Zoom curriculum, during April 2020.
Boosted by national grants of $100,000 for 2020 and now the $60- thousand Mentoring Grant for 2020-2022, CASA of Southern Connecticut depends also on donations from individuals and, soon, foundation grants in order to sustain its work. The organization participated in the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven’s Great Give—which, through individual donations and matching grants, yielded nearly $5000 in May 2020.
Engaging as a CASA is one proven way to help change a child’s story. Ultimately the goal is to identify a safe, permanent home where the child can thrive.
Applications are available, with interviews currently conducted via Zoom. Contact CASA of Southern Connecticut about the opportunity to volunteer: volunteer@CASAsouthCT.org