There is an epidemic plaguing many of our children in Lafourche Parish of which few may be aware. Sadly, there are 160 kids ranging in age from infancy to 18 years that are in state custody due to abuse or neglect. These children are either in group homes, foster care settings, or placed with relatives.
CASA of Lafourche, a nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization, is a court appointed child advocacy group who is the saving grace for 96 of these children.
CASA Programming Coordinator, Tiffany Lee, best explained it when she said, "Our volunteers are the judge's arms and legs. The judge simply doesn't have the ability to go out and see every child or monitor every parent.”
For CASA that is not enough. They are in critical need of volunteers to reach the remaining 64 children and other children who enter the system every day. Currently, the organization has only 37 volunteers, with each assigned one case that may involve one child or could have siblings.
These devoted volunteers become a child's voice and remain a constant "touchstone" for these innocent youth who are in dire need of a safe and nurturing environment. A child removed from the abusive and neglectful home continues to face a multitude of challenges. Removal from their home is often unexpected, heart-wrenching, and traumatic for these children. They are soon in unfamiliar surroundings, with new rules, new faces, and contemplate an "unknown" future daily.
Once a CASA volunteer steps into play they become the voice of a child, provide solace, stability, and ease of transition. Committed to the wellbeing of the child, CASA not only makes recommendations to the court but also helps the child with resources to address medical, mental health, school issues, etc.
Through no fault of their own, sometimes a child may be moved four, five or even six times to new foster care environments. The selfless CASA volunteer walks hand in hand with that child alleviating fear and stress of such moves and remains the one constant for the child.
CASA also monitors parent’s progress, who are encouraged to reach goals outlined in a plan designed specifically for them. Such a plan might include the completion of parenting classes, drug counseling, and securing stable housing/employment.
“Unfortunately, only about 50% of cases result in child/parent reunification. If parental rights terminate, the child remains a ward of the state until they are adopted or age out of the system,” said Lee.
Presently, in an overwhelmed and understaffed government child welfare office, social workers have around 30 active cases each. Compound this with the fact some cases stay open for up to two years, and there is a certainty a percentage of children will fall through the cracks.
Another harsh reality is when children age out and CASA is not involved, the state gives them $200 and maybe a bus ticket. CASA, on the other hand, continues to assist those who age out by providing resources to build competence in life skills, independent living, and job training.
Children are our most precious treasure. Every child deserves understanding, unconditional love, and the very best life has to offer. CASA volunteers are vital to the youth’s recovery process.
"If people in our community could come forward to say they can help just one child we could reach out to the other kids who are in state custody," said Lee. “The only requirements for a potential volunteer are to be at least 21 years of age, submit to a background check, and complete volunteer training,” Lee added.
The reward of witnessing a child overcome such adversities and growth are enormous.
CASA is inviting the public to the next volunteer training which is Wednesday, May 10th. There are no degrees necessary. Volunteers can be from any walk of life. Come out, meet and make great friends while fighting for the most worthy of causes, the children. Visit www.casaoflafouche.org or call 985-446-660 for additional information.
For those who would like to help but do not have the time necessary to advocate, there are other ways to help.
“CASA is always in need of assistance with the many fundraisers we hold throughout the year. Additionally, since CASA is a non-profit organization, monetary donations are always appreciated. The community can also help to raise awareness through emails to friends and family or by posting on their social media pages to promote our mission of child advocacy,” stated Lee.
Lee mentioned several upcoming fundraisers which are open to the public. Crawdaddy's will hold their 3rd Annual Crawfish Boil-Off at Foundry on the Bayou on Saturday, May 13th from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is $10.00, with live entertainment provided by Bandit and Casey and Johnny.
CASA’s 3rd Annual Fishing Tournament at Bridgeside Marina in Grand Isle is set for Saturday, June 10th. Ticket prices include the tournament and a dinner ticket. Adult tickets are $20 and children under 10 are $10.
Tickets can be purchased on the day of the event at Bridgeside Marina or before the event by contacting Ashley Barrios at State Farm, 985-632-0988, or CASA of Lafourche at 985-446-6600.
CASA’s Grill Master, which is sponsored by Kiwanis Club of Thibodaux, will be in Downtown Thibodaux on Saturday, June 17th at 5 p.m. The event includes a BBQ grilling contest and a Bloody Mary drink contest.
The fee for teams interested in entering the food competition is $50 if paid by May 15th or $75 for those entering after May 15th. The Bloody Mary team entry fee is $20.
The event opens to the public at 5:00 p.m. Ticket pricing includes an unlimited tasting of food from the Bayou's best chefs and home cooks as well as four tickets for adult drink tastings. Drinks will be available for tasting at 5:30 p.m. and food will be served at 6:00 p.m. Live music will follow from 6 to 9 p.m.
Adult tickets including drink tasting are $15. Children's tickets are as follows: 12 years and older $10, ages 6 – 11 $5, five years and younger are free.
For additional information on any of the events, please visit www.casaoflafourche.org or call 985-446-6600.
Call 1-855-4LA-KIDS if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected.
Posted on Tue, May 2, 2017
by Holly McKeon, Contributing Writer