MISSION, Kan. — With schools opening back up, kids need more help than ever. Foster care advocates say the number of kids in care are expected to rise, and CASA of Wyandotte & Johnson Counties is hoping people will step up when kids need them most.
Amoria Johnson, program director of CASA of Wyandotte & Johnson Counties, said for children experiencing abuse, being back in front of people could be a lifeline.
“I’ve never experienced anything quite like this because we’ve always had the resources like teachers, doctors, pediatricians and things to lay eyes on the children … When that all shut down, everyone was sheltering at home,” Johnson said. “It was devastating. It was frightening.”
Johnson said the number of kids in care in both counties they cover dropped at the beginning of the pandemic due to kids not being around mandatory reporters, but the numbers are picking back up. In the organization’s 35th year, they are advocating for more than 500 children, the most in their history.
“We’ve already to start seeing them come in, the reports of abuse and neglect,” Johnson said.
CASA gives foster children an advocate who helps them get the care and services they need. A CASA is a court appointed special advocate for children. Volunteers go through a virtual training course, a background check and an interview. Then they are matched with a child or siblings.
The advocate builds a relationship with the child and gives them a voice in the court system. They speak for the child in court to make sure the judge can properly make decisions in their best interest.
“Things change, schools change, foster homes change, everything is kind of tumultuous. Not the CASA volunteer. The CASA volunteer is the stable entity in the child’s life,” Johnson said.
For the Hahn family, their CASA volunteer was vital. Hope and Brandon Hahn recently adopted 4-year-old Dixie and 2-year-old Blake. They started as Dixie’s foster parents, and then her little brother came into care. Their CASA helped the children get everything they need through the time the children were adopted.
“It’s a big issue of stability. They need that voice. In our situation, CASA stepped in and was able to help in that way, and in a big way,” Hope said.
Hope said people who are considering volunteering should take the leap. Johnson said children who have a CASA advocate are less likely to be re-abused and more likely to be in a stable home.
“There should be no need for us, but there is,” Johnson said. “We’re going to keep serving children as long as we can, and hopefully this will help recruit more volunteers and to be a voice for children in court.”
“Focus on the fact that you get to help and be in the community. Touch the life of a child. Be able to reach into their home and into their hearts, and hopefully help get them into a better place,” Hope said
If you are interested in becoming a CASA volunteer, the commitment is about 10 hours a month, and you can do the trainings virtually. All volunteers are background checked.
For more information on how to become a CASA, visit their website or give them a call at 913-715-4040.