York County in urgent need of volunteer child-welfare advocates

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

For children under the care or supervision of the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families, having their own court-appointed special advocate provides stability in an otherwise turbulent and uncertain situation.

But with only 51  trained CASA volunteers and most volunteers assigned to only one child, hundreds of kids in the county's child welfare system don't have this opportunity.

"We have 250 to 300 kids that do not have CASAs," said Ann Mushendwa, director of the York County CASA program. "We need as many as we can get."

The county is in urgent need of volunteers to be child advocates, and with fall training just around the corner, now is the time to learn more.

Information sessions about becoming a court-appointed special advocate will be held at noon and 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 13, in the Jury Assembly Room at the York County Judicial Center.

Volunteer court-appointed advocates do not need to have a background in child welfare or social services, Mushendwa said.

After receiving comprehensive training and preparation, most CASAs are assigned one child-welfare case, and they dedicate about 10 to 15 hours a month to those cases.

An advocate's role is to be consistently informed about the child's case and situation in order to make sure judges, lawyers and CYF caseworkers have all of the information necessary to make the best decisions for the child.

Ann Mushendwa and Donna Creager, director and assistant director for York County's Court Appointed Special Advocates program, visited the Rotary Club of Eastern York County in 2018 to discuss the CASA program. From left are Creager, Club President Chris Leiphart, Mushendwa and Rotarian Bill Dress. Submitted.

Advocates review court orders and referrals from CYF and follow up to make sure those requirements are being met.

They also attend all court proceedings and visit their assigned child at least once a month wherever the child is living, whether it's a foster home, group home or with their own parents.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the CASA program must submit an application by Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Training sessions for accepted applicants will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday at the York County Judicial Center beginning Sept. 17 and ending Nov. 12.

The curriculum covers everything from juvenile law and domestic violence to substance abuse, mental health and cultural issues.

For more information, visit yorkcountycasa.org, call 717-771-9754 or email casa@yorkcountypa.gov.

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