READING, PA (February 18, 2020) – These are the children who are among the most distressed residents in Berks County: the ones who are in the dependency court system, many of them in foster care.
A judge oversees each child’s case, as do the dedicated men and women who work in Berks County Children and Youth Services.
The caseloads of Children and Youth Services team members vary. They can sometimes be quite heavy. Some children under their supervision need more attention than they can give.
That’s where Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) come in. Judges appoint these highly-trained volunteers to provide an additional set of eyes and ears for the neediest children. These volunteers have access to court records and to both the child to whom they are assigned and the judge overseeing the case. The volunteers work in collaboration with Children and Youth Services to make sure that the children are not only safe but also thriving.
We helped restart CASA Berks at the request of county judges about five years ago. We provided a substantial amount of funding, and the state CASA organization played a huge role in helping us bring the program back after it had closed a few years earlier. It is thrilling for the Community Foundation to see CASA Berks mature into a valuable program that benefits the community.
After five years, there are 41 CASA Berks volunteers. They’ll serve 85 abused and neglected children this year.
Unfortunately, there are 674 children in foster care in Berks County, and every one of those children deserves a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
It would be ambitious to set a goal to provide a volunteer advocate for each child in foster care in Berks. But that ambition is embraced by Nancy McCullar, executive director of CASA Berks.
What will it take to achieve that?
Well, of course, it will take funding. Each staff member at CASA can support and oversee about 30 volunteers. That’s the kind of funding that county government should provide.
But more importantly, it will take volunteers who are willing to commit to the training and to dedicate their time to help our children. When you hear a CASA volunteer talk about the impact they have on the lives of children and families, it’s really moving.
All of us at the Community Foundation are proud of the progress Nancy and her team have made. It is great to see the growth of something that is working for our community.
You can learn more at CASA Berks.
Once there, you can also consider attending the 2020 CASA Community Awareness Breakfast, which will be at 8 a.m. on April 21 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading. Tickets are only $25.
Kevin K. Murphy, President
Berks County Community Foundation