Tag Archive for: volunteer

Screeshot of June Training

CASA Graduates 41 New Advocates

In April and June, CASA of NH held two more sessions of very successful virtual training. As it is in the in-person classroom, virtual training is interactive and collaborative. It requires large and small group participation, welcomes guest speakers, facilitates a virtual role play, includes drafting a sample court report, and provides all of the necessary preparation to start providing effective advocacy for children who’ve experienced abuse and neglect.

Virtual training is proving to be incredibly helpful in providing consistent training opportunities for interested volunteers throughout the state. While there are plans to resume in-person training in 2022, virtual training will remain in place as an effective tool for widespread outreach.

One of the training team’s favorite activities to do during in-person training was to have participants write an uplifting and positive message to their future CASA children. Now in virtual training, they have each participant go around the classroom one-by-one to say their messages. Check out the messages from the participants of our April training below.

Please help us welcome April graduates Jennifer, John, Suzanne, Robin, Sandy, Emily, Greg, Jennifer, Renee, Michelle, Maura, Meghan, Amy, Rachel, Christopher, Amber, Nan, Dolly, Amber, Beth, Erin, Jim and Crystal. We also had our summer intern from the legal department complete training.

The June class faced a weather-related challenge when they went to record their uplifting messages. A thunderstorm rolled through the state at that time, causing a few people experience some technical difficulties! While they were unable to record their messages, they did manage to get a group photo.

Screeshot of June Training

Please help us welcome Carol, Allison, Mandy, Diane, MaryLouise, Kali, Roberta, Sheila, Cheryl, Joy, David, Nancy, Cyndi, Kaleigh, Lillie, Sheila, Jennifer and Conrad. We also had three staff members complete training.

Training available this fall

CASA is accepting applicants for future virtual training sessions beginning Sept. 13 and Nov. 1. Interested volunteers can submit their applications today, or, join an upcoming virtual information session to learn more about the role of the CASA volunteer advocate and get specific questions answered. Register for one here.

Retirees Provide a Vital Voice for NH’s Abused and Neglected Children

After Seacoast New Hampshire resident Dean Plager retired, he enjoyed spending more time sailing, but he also felt a need to give back to society. He read an article about a local woman who was advocating for abused and neglected children as a volunteer with CASA of NH. “It hit home for me because I had been looking for something to do that really makes a difference. This was it,” Dean says.

Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire – or CASA of NH – recruits, trains and supervises volunteers to serve as advocates for abused and neglected children in the New Hampshire court system.  Volunteers spend time getting to know a victimized child and the important adults in that child’s life so they may make qualified, unbiased recommendations to a judge deciding a child’s future.  Since CASA of NH was founded in 1989, its volunteers have helped more than 10,000 children grow up in safe, permanent homes.

More than 55 percent of CASA of NH’s 600 volunteers last year were over 60 and almost 50 percent were retired or working part-time.  According to Marcia Sink, founder and President/CEO of CASA, women and men of retirement age play a key role in the organization’s goal to provide a CASA volunteer advocate to every abused or neglected child who needs one.

“We are expecting a surge in cases of abuse and neglect after the COVID pandemic passes and we need more volunteers now. Retired folks or people with flexible schedules are in a position to step up quickly, plus we find that our older volunteers have tremendous abilities that they still want to use during retirement. It is a good combination,” she says.

CASA volunteer advocate Darcy Horgan calls her work for CASA a “win/win,” commenting that “it engages my work ethic but has real meaning. At this stage of life, what a bonus it is to do valuable work that is fulfilling!”

Monadnock-area resident Patience Stoddard was a little bored in her second year of retirement. She attended a 40-hour training session to become a CASA volunteer advocate and found the training “exceptional.” She also discovered kindred spirits in her fellow classmates. “It makes you realize that there are a lot of good people out there. It keeps your faith in humanity,” she says.

As with other aspects of life, the COVID pandemic has altered CASA volunteer work. Training has moved online and advocates meet with children in safely distanced visits or, if the child is old enough, through virtual means. Some courts convene through telephone and web conferences while others offer socially distanced in-person meetings.

Steve and Betsy Coes were deep into training to become CASA volunteer advocates when the COVID pandemic hit. They completed their training online and received their first cases in Spring 2020. Steve says that he has been able to check on his one-year-old CASA child and do the work despite COVID. “Every time a new wrinkle arises, it is an education. Most of all, my CASA work is an education about what the world is like out there. You see how people get in situations and you start to understand motivations,” he says.

Want to learn more?  Read our FAQs about volunteering or join us for a live, virtual information session:

Sign Up for an Info Session

Don’t Be Overwhelmed by the Thought of Being in Court

Name: Jennifer Adams

Town: Troy

How long have you been a CASA? I have been a CASA since 2009

Number of cases you’ve worked on: 7

Number of children you’ve worked with: 7

Why did you decide to become a CASA and why do you continue to give your time to CASA? I decided to become an advocate because I had recently changed careers. I went from working as a pediatric occupational therapist with special needs children in public schools, to working in my family’s business as an inn keeper. I was looking for a way to stay involved with children and the community. I felt that my knowledge and experience around child development would be a good fit with the CASA organization.

I continue to give my time to this organization because there are so many children in our community who are impacted by abuse and neglect. Now more than ever due to the increase of drug misuse, many children are getting caught up in the drama and upheaval of their parent’s lives. These children need someone who is focused on them and will speak on their behalf in the court system to try to insure they have the best outcome possible, enabling them to grow and develop in a safe and nurturing home.

Tell us about a learning experience you’ve had as a CASA. I have learned a lot about the court system, DCYF and Easter Seals. I have met many dedicated people who are working toward providing safe homes for kids as well as trying to help parents get the assistance they need to care for themselves and their kids.

Share a memorable outcome from one of your cases, or, if your case hasn’t closed yet, something positive you’ve seen come from your case so far. I worked with a mother whose child was removed from her care due to substance misuse and child neglect. This mother had struggled with alcohol for many years, but when this happened to her, it was the wake-up call she needed. It was amazing to watch her turn herself around and do everything she needed to do to get herself and her home back on track and to be reunited with her child. There are so many parents who are struggling with substance misuse and sometimes need a little help to make things right. It is so nice when they are able to do that and families can remain safely together.

What would you say to encourage someone who has been thinking about becoming an advocate? If you have ever considered becoming a CASA volunteer, just do it! There is such a huge need and you will feel great when you are part of a team that either helps a family become safe and stable again, reunites a child back with their parents or when you participate in finding a new forever home for a child.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the thought of being in court. It was an unfamiliar place for me at first, but the CASA staff is wonderful at training and supporting you at all times. CASA of NH is a fantastic organization to volunteer for. They care deeply for the children of this state and for their volunteers.

“Making a Difference in a Child’s Life is So Rewarding”

Pam Clark

Gilford, NH

How long have you been a CASA?
I have been a CASA since July 2011. I have been a Peer Coordinator for almost 3 years

Number of cases you’ve worked on:
9 cases personally; I have mentored CASA’s with 10 cases in all.

Number of children you’ve worked with:
14 children on my own cases. The children the CASA’s I mentor have advocated for 17 more.

Why did you decide to become a CASA and why do you continue to give your time to CASA?
As a retired teacher I wanted to continue to make a difference in children’s lives. I guess it makes me feel like a champion for children.

Tell us about a learning experience you’ve had as a CASA.
One of the most sobering things I have learned is that many of the “children” we advocate for are teenagers and what happens to them when they leave the foster care system without being reunited with their family. It is hard to know that they don’t have a family to celebrate birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving or other holidays with. Many of them have few resources and it has been a most difficult lesson to learn the hardship that struggling teenagers have to deal with.

Share a memorable outcome from one of your cases, or, on a case that hasn’t closed yet, something positive you’ve seen come from your case so far.
A local church was sending things to help out the family placement for the children I advocated for. There are 5 children in all and they have a small home. Their income is limited as their grandmother who is on disability cares for them. The church sent over brand new bedding for every child and when I drove in with it and asked the children to help me bring in brand new sheets, blankets and pillows, the 8-year-old boy took one of the pillows and said , “Can I have one too?” It is hard for us to imagine when a child is excited over the prospect of a new pillow. Giving to children who are so appreciative for everything you do because they often have so little is so heart-warming.

What would you say to encourage someone who has been thinking about becoming an advocate?
Being involved in making a difference in children’s lives is so rewarding. There are so many options facing the judges on how they can impact the lives of children who are affected by neglect and abuse. But how would they know what is best for the children unless someone who cares and understands what that child’s life is like on a day to day basis tells them? When you can explain to the judge what the child you are advocating is facing, seeing and feeling, then you are giving the child a voice that the court will appreciate when they make decisions.

Keeping the Child’s Well-Being Front and Center

Ken Gifford

Manchester, NH

How long have you been a CASA?
I accepted my 1st case in July 2014 on the last day of my CASA training.

How many cases and how many children have you advocated for?
I’ve been appointed to 4 cases as a CASA-GAL. Each case had 1 child.

Why did you decide to become a CASA and why do you continue to give your time to CASA?
Jim Polcari, a Massachusetts attorney and advocate for abused/neglected children, has been my friend for a long time. Jim’s life of selfless, caring, child-focused advocacy inspired me to become a CASA-GAL.

Time steadily creeps forward while NH Courts and DCYF attempt to preserve the family unit and rehabilitate adults who inflicted physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, exploitation or neglect upon a child. While this is occurring, the development and maturation of the child-victim is also occurring. When preservation of the family unit and rehabilitation of adults trumps the day-to-day well being of harmed children, an opportunity exists for CASA-GAL volunteers to intervene and make a positive contribution on behalf the child. The child’s biological clock and the child’s development and maturation don’t pause and take a break while the child’s parents, the Court and DCYF attempt to address the parent’s problem(s). CASA-GALs keep the children’s well being in the fore.

Tell us about a learning experience you’ve had as a CASA.
Parents suffering from mental illness, substance abuse and, or alcoholism are often depressed. They face lots of other challenges in their lives. Although each individual’s story and journey is unique, they all share a love for their children that is incredibly powerful. Sometimes a parent’s love and affection for a child is so strong it prevents the parent from being able to recognize and acknowledge their own responsibility in the situation that resulted in an abuse/neglect charge being filed against them. Most parents in the cases I’ve had told me that they love their children more than anything else in the world, including themselves. I’ve learned that it’s necessary to verify information I’m told by parents who don’t accept responsibility for their actions instead of simply accepting it as being truthful because they insist their love of their children implies their version(s) of the story must be correct.

Share a memorable outcome from one of your cases, or, if your case hasn’t closed yet, something positive you’ve seen come from your case so far.
A middle-school student in an educational neglect case was suffering from infected gums and periodontal disease, which interfered with his ability to interact and make friends with his peers and contributed to an excessive amount of truancy and absenteeism. DCYF and the mother’s attorney presented arguments that the child’s dental problems were being addressed and weren’t relevant in an educational neglect case. We (CASA of NH) prevailed in arguing that the child was not receiving the care he needed and played a role in helping him have his periodontal disease treated.  This improved the child’s social life and contributed to increased school participation. It also helped improve his mother’s relationship with him and the school.

What would you say to encourage someone who has been thinking about becoming an advocate?
NH children didn’t start to be abused and neglected as a result of the opioid crisis. The opioid crisis has simply exacerbated the abuse and neglect of children in NH. The parents in these cases struggle to care for themselves. In these situations their abused and neglected children are innocent victims. CASA-GAL volunteers with the support and assistance of CASA of NH help inform the Courts about what’s actually happening in the case with an emphasis on the children’s well being. Although these cases are about the children most of the time the focus in a court hearing is on the rehabilitation of the parents and the parent’s participation and progress. As a CASA-GAL you try to help the court and DCYF stay focused on the child to help prevent a loss of big picture.