The holiday season is in full swing. From Thanksgiving to Hanukkah and Christmas and Kwanzaa, there’s something for almost everyone to celebrate and feel a part of a community. While these holidays help bring people closer together, this can be a difficult time for children and families involved in the child welfare system who are not able to spend this time together.
When a family is in crisis and becomes involved in the child welfare system, the children are often removed from their homes and placed in foster care, many times far from everyone and everything they know. This holiday season, SOS CASA of the Flint Hills urges you to be mindful of the children who are spending the holidays away from those they love and consider how you can help make a difference.
“December is meant to be a festive time to spend with your friends and family,” said Corina Sanchez, director of SOS CASA of the Flint Hills. Too often, though, children in foster care must spend the holidays away from their family and home community, which can deprive them of many precious memories that can make the holiday season so special.”
This is where Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers can step in and make the most impact. Appointed by a judge, CASA volunteers’ priority on cases is to advocate for keeping families together whenever safe and possible. When that is not possible, CASA volunteers recommend that children live with another relative or close family friend to ensure that they can maintain connections to their family and community.
Therefore, CASA volunteers are so imperative in the lives of children and families in the child welfare system. They need someone who can get to know them and their unique situation, advocate for them, and help ensure they are surrounded by caring people who will support them even after their case ends.
“CASA volunteers stand by children’s side while they are in foster care, providing a consistent presence and ensuring they are kept safe and their needs are met,” said Sanchez “They also help make sure children stay meaningfully connected with their families and communities.”
According to the Kansas Department for Children and Families, for year 2021, over 3,000, children were in foster care in Kansas alone – 148 in our community. SOS CASA of the Flint Hills is challenging more members of the community to become a part of the solution by becoming a CASA volunteer.
CASA volunteers get to know a child or sibling group on an individual level and speak with other important people in the child’s life, such as their parents and family, teachers, therapists, foster parents and more. With the information they gather, they develop a holistic understanding of their circumstances and needs and make recommendations to the court. They advocate first for family reunification whenever safe and possible. They also help find and engage family members and other adults who can serve as a network of support for the child and their parent or parents.
“Each year, more children enter the foster care system and don’t get the opportunity to spend the holiday season at home with their loved ones,” Sanchez said. “We need more members of the community to step up and get involved. You can make a difference this holiday season.”
Consider becoming a CASA volunteer to look out for a child and give them and their family a better chance at a brighter future – and the happy holiday season they deserve. To learn more, visit www.soskansas.com/casaor call 620-343-2744.Our next pre-service training starts in January, we hope you can join us