CASA of Baltimore County, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring abused and neglected children their right to safe, permanent homes is seeking community members interested in becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate – or CASA volunteer — a court appointed, trained, and committed adult who represents and advocates for a child’s best interest in the child protection system.
For Len Levering, volunteering for CASA began more than seven years ago after reading about the organization in his local newspaper.
“I first heard about CASA in the Towson Times a few years back,” said Levering. “I was already heavily involved as a volunteer for the Department of Aging, but CASA seemed like a wonderful opportunity to help make a difference for children in need.”
CASA volunteers get to know their assigned children, gathering information from those involved in his or her daily life including family members, foster parents, teachers, daycare providers, doctors, lawyers, social workers, etc. The information gathered is then placed into a report to the judge overhearing the child’s case, inclusive of recommendation as to what is in their best interests.
Each day in Maryland, 22 children are abused, neglected or abandoned. In Baltimore County alone, nearly 600 of these children remain in the foster care system, two-thirds of whom are in need of a CASA volunteer.
Levering is currently assigned two CASA cases: a 12-year-old boy who has a history of abuse by family members, and a 16-year-old boy who was removed from his home at age 3 due to physical and sexual abuse. A typical volunteer is assigned to a single child or sibling group, but as a veteran volunteer, Len was asked to work with an additional child.
“I spend a few hours a month on each of my current cases,” said Len. “We get together for a lot of fun activities like going to lunch, tossing the football around, or visiting the National Aquarium at the Inner Harbor – you know, what normal kids like to do! Sometimes, though, we just sit together and talk — talk about what they’re thinking, what they’ve experienced, and how they’re feeling.”
Due to the nature of the work, an intense background screening and interview process is necessary for anyone to become a CASA volunteer. After initial interviews and screening, approved volunteers participate in 33 hours of training led by CASA staff before they can begin service. On average, volunteers spend between seven to 10 hours a month getting to know and building a relationship with their assigned child/children.
Prior to his current cases, Len advocated for two other young boys, one of whom was receiving enough support from other agencies and no longer required a CASA volunteer, and the other who aged out of the foster care system upon turning 21. He remains close with both of his former CASA children and hears from them regularly.
A retired salesman, Len and his wife of 43 years, Cynthia, have lived in Towson for more than three decades. They have one daughter, age 34, and have recently been blessed with their first grandchild.
CASA of Baltimore County will be hosting an information session for those interested in learning more about becoming a CASA volunteer on February 21 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the CASA office in Towson (305 W. Chesapeake Ave., Suite 117). For more information about the session or other questions regarding the program, contact Gwen Farrugia, Advocate Coordinator, at 410-828-0515 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written and submitted by Patrick Seidl, CNP, Development & Communications Coordinator, Maryland CASA Association