Springfield organization sees urgent need for volunteers to advocate for children in foster care system

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 8:00 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - More children are entering the foster care system in Missouri due to a rise in child abuse and neglect cases. With that rise of kids in the system, comes the need for Court Appointed Special Advocates.

CASA of Southwest Missouri has 124 kids on the waiting list to get their own advocate. The organization needs more community members who are willing to volunteer.

The executive director of CASA, Laura Farmer, says foster kids with these advocates have more stability in their lives.

“To advocate for the best interest of the children we serve, our CASA volunteers play a really important role in a child’s life,” Farmer says. “They visit that child twice a month. They get to know all about the child and then they advocate for whatever that child might need.”

That improves different aspects of their well-being.

”When a child has a CASA, they actually get out of foster care more quickly than those who don’t have a CASA,” Farmer says. “Ultimately what I think is really important is that our kids with a CASA, they’re less likely to re-enter the foster care system.”

Farmer says 10% of kids that leave foster care in Missouri end up re-entering the system within a year or two because of repeated child abuse or neglect. However, Farmer says when they have an advocate, that number drops to less than 1%.

“They play a huge role in keeping our kids safe long-term and really breaking that cycle of generational abuse and neglect,” Farmer says.

However, there’s an urgent need for volunteers.

“We’ve grown from 86 volunteers to 250 volunteers, and we need more,” Farmer says.

Farmer says, despite the organization growing, the number of foster kids in Greene County is increasing at an even faster rate. In the last two months, 87 kids have entered foster care in Greene County.

“Who’s gonna be with them no matter what? Who’s gonna help them through that foster care system? Who’s gonna be a listening ear for them? We need volunteers,” says Farmer. “We need volunteers who are going to stand up for kids, who wanna serve as that mentor and that advocate.”

Each advocate is assigned one child or sibling group in foster care. In August 2020, Eden Holt started volunteering as an advocate. For Holt, this hit close to home.

“I experienced foster care throughout my younger years and aged out of the system,” Holt says.

Holt says her personal experience offers a different perspective than other volunteers may have, which allows her to really listen to the child and give them a voice.

“Gives me the opportunity to kind of look for different things that maybe someone else would not have seen,” Holt says.

Foster kids may move from home to home throughout their time in the system. This advocate provides consistency in their life which is crucial.

“To be a stable person, a stable responsible adult,” Holt says. “To show them that they are seen and that they matter.”

Volunteers will visit the child at least two times a month, for at least five hours in total. Holt is encouraging others in the community to be that voice for a child and apply to be a CASA.

“I’m a very busy mom with a full time job and I also am active throughout the community,” Holt says. “I would say for anyone that’s just curious or really wanting to take that leap, that there’s no better time.”

CASA only has two more trainings left in 2021. The training is 30 hours in total, 15 hours of studying on your own and 15 hours of online classroom sessions.

“You learn all about the child welfare system,” Farmer says. “You’re going to learn about how to connect with a child who has been abused or neglected. You’re gonna learn about the court process, how to write a court report, because most of our volunteers have had no experience with the child welfare system whatsoever.”

You can apply to volunteer here.

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