RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond CASA is facing a shortage of volunteers, and the organization said they currently have a waiting list of 18 children in need of a court appointed special advocate (CASA).
"It's really tough to think about those 18 kids that are waiting that don't have someone," explained volunteer coordinator, Sarah-Keel Crews.
Right now, Richmond CASA has 85 volunteers, but, with the high number of abuse and neglect cases in the city, Crews said they'd like to have around 100 volunteers to help ensure every child gets a volunteer to advocate for their best interests.
"A CASA is so critical," she noted. "Because the time that they invest in that child means that they truly get to know them, who they are, what brings them joy, what they need, and what is going to bring them safety and permanency in a placement."
Right now, Crews said they’re looking for anyone willing to help, but specifically people of color, people who speak multiple languages and men.
"We are really looking for people who look like the kids that we serve because representation matters," said Crews.
You don’t have to have any legal background to become a CASA, and there’s no prerequisite — other than 35 hours of training once you sign up. What's most important is that you have a heart for helping a child through one of the most difficult points in their life.
"It can seem incredibly hard because people hear abuse and neglect and it makes them really sad, right?" Crews explained. "It gives people sometimes a visceral reaction, and they react very strongly to it. But I would say that the gift that you are giving this child is immeasurable, and it far outweighs the cost because every child deserves permanency. Every child deserves a safe home that they can grow up in free of abuse and neglect and trauma."
Richmond CASA said their volunteers are responsible for meeting with their designated child twice a month. The total commitment is about 15 hours a month, and some of that is spent communicating with other people involved in your case, and also creating a written report to advocate for the child in the courtroom.
Arielle Schneider has been volunteering with Richmond CASA for almost a year now, and she said this is the most impactful work she’s done.
"You know that your role is not to be someone that they remember necessarily, but whose input and volunteer work kind of helped make sure that the best outcome for them was achieved," Schneider explained. "So I know that my moments with my kid are short and aren't gonna last forever. But it is a real delight to get to know the little human that you're investing in over time. And it's a quiet role. But I think it's really meaningful."
If you'd like to volunteer with Richmond CASA, you can contact Sarah Keel-Crews at email@example.com or Jessica Moore at Jessica.Moore@rva.gov