The Merced County Superior Court opened its doors last week to the past, present, and future of this region’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for the first in-person, swearing-in ceremony since the onset of COVID-19.
Three new CASA advocates were sworn into their positions on Tuesday, June 6, as well as a new board member for the non-profit, by the Honorable Judge Donald Proietti.
Class No. 48 graduates Angelica Morales, Soo Lee, and Jamie Bradley joined incoming CASA Treasurer Holly Werner in the jury box as Judge Proietti spoke about the important role that advocates play in the lives of children making their way through the court system.
Each advocate now has an obligation to not only work in the best interests of abused and neglected children within the court system, but to serve as a consistent mentor and positive adult figure in their lives.
As CASA volunteers are sworn officers of the court, they work diligently to provide the judge with an independent assessment of the circumstances of the child drawn from their evaluation and interviews they conduct with key parties in the child’s life. Each CASA must complete 30 hours of training as well as five hours of courtroom observation to graduate and begin their work as a volunteer. Topics include CASA rules, the law, child protection systems and records, cultural competence, understanding families and children, communication, gathering information, court report writing and monitoring a case.
CASA advocates base their work on the belief that every child is entitled to a safe and supportive home, and each advocate works in collaboration with key agencies, legal counsel and community resources to serve as the child’s advocate in the Merced County Juvenile Court System, with the goal of protecting and ensuring each foster child’s right to a safe, permanent home.
To learn more about CASA of Merced County and how to become a supporter of their cause or to volunteer alongside of the organization, residents can log into MercedCASA.org or contact them by calling 209.722.CASA.