SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA) — There are more than 5,000 kids in foster care in Arkansas, but only about 1,600 foster family homes.
The Court Appointed Special Advocates, also known as CASA’s, are a special group of people who speak up for the needs of children who need it most.
In this week’s Doing Good report, we meet a woman volunteering her time to make an impact on the lives of abused and neglected children right here in northwest arkansas.
After Sarah Allred adopted her son through the foster care system, her heart was set on serving more children in need.
“Children without that don’t know that they’re voice will be heard, don’t know that their voice matters. Don’t know their future matters,” Allred said. “There’s no way to put it into words how rewarding it is to be a voice to someone who has no voice.”
The help her son received from his CASA advocate, led Allred to become one herself.
The non-profit is made up of volunteers who walk alongside children in foster care, providing reports to the court that handles their cases.
“What a CASA advocate is going to do is be that one consistent human being in a child’s life when they need it the most,” says Colleen Smith, Director of Development for CASA of Northwest Arkansas.
That includes anything from a simple phone call, to keeping a watchful eye on a child’s medical needs and education — ultimately making a recommendation to a judge for permanent placement.
“One of the struggles they have is they are placed in a system that is truly over-burdened. Case workers, attorneys, judges have way too many folks they are going to try what’s going on in their lives and make good decisions,” Smith said.
CASA served more than 800 children in Northwest Arkansas in 2018 alone, and it needs volunteers now more than ever.
“Our waitlist right now is 64 children, so 64 kids in our 4 county area — Washington, Benton, Madison and Carroll are in need of an advocate,” Smith said.
Over 30 hours of training goes into becoming an advocate, but as far as Allred is concerned, all it takes is a desire to make a difference.
“All you need really is the heart to give, caring about these kids, our community, the future of our community, the rest comes. Just a desire to serve,” Allred said.
Every single volunteer helping CASA achieve its goal of serving every child by 2020.
“It’s harrowing to think about what happens to children without advocates because even though there’s a lot of adults that are involved that care. All of these people are so overworked and juggling so many things, and so to have an advocate for a child you’re giving that child a gift, you’re giving that child a voice.”
Washington and Carroll counties have the greatest need for volunteers.
If you’re interested, CASA of Northwest Arkansas holds informational sessions on the third Thursday of every month at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the CASA office in Springdale.
Address: 3825 Cawood Ln, Springdale, AR 72762