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CASA of Baltimore adds 9 advocates

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Baltimore Inc., recently added nine new members to its team. Tina Matthews, Mikita Brottman, Marcia Brooks, Mark Inge, Asia Bulger, Delecia Pulliam, Sharon Fogler, Marlena Weiss and Shanika Crane joined the organization Dec. 15 after being sworn in by Judge Robert Kershaw, an associate judge with the Baltimore City Circuit Court’s 8th Judicial Circuit.

The new members completed 30 hours of classroom training and two to three hours of court observation to become elgible to join the organization and help abused or neglected children in foster care.

1351891731_9380_logo“For me, becoming a CASA volunteer means being part of a team where reunification of families is a top priority,” said Fogler, a retired teacher for Montgomery County Public Schools. “This is an opportunity to become an active participant in my community as a volunteer who cares about the outcomes for Baltimore’s children,” she added.

Fogler said serving as a CASA volunteer may be challenging at times, but the training she received from professional staff at CASA of Baltimore Inc. will help her to assure that the needs of the children she advocates for are met while they are under the protection of the courts.

From parents and grandparents to retirees and full-time IT professionals, these individuals all come from different walks of life but converge on the common goal of helping to make a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children. CASA volunteers are dedicated community members who have been trained and are advocating for foster children in the county’s juvenile dependency court system. As friends of the court, they ensure that the children’s needs are recognized and best interests are considered both in the courtroom and in the community.

CASA volunteers are asked to meet with a child regularly and are authorized to interview people in the child’s life such as social workers, attorneys and teachers. They attend court hearings with the child and report their findings to the judge.

According to the Maryland Department of Human Resources, there were 1,932 children in foster care in Baltimore as of September. Yet, despite the efforts of CASA of Baltimore, Inc., only 10 percent of those children in need have a CASA volunteer speaking up for their best interests.

“CASA of Baltimore is positioned to serve more foster children and support families with a plan of reunification,” said Nancy Blackwell, executive director for CASA of Baltimore Inc. “We are a ways away from serving every child in need, so we urge members of the Baltimore Community to step forward and see if becoming a CASA volunteer is right for them.”

There is no special experience is required to become a CASA volunteer. Training and supervision are provided by professional staff. For more information about volunteer opportunities with CASA of Baltimore Inc., call Volunteer Recruitment Manager Nancy Raskin at 410-244-1465 or go to http://www.casabalt.org.

Founded in 1988, CASA of Baltimore Inc., serves abused and neglected children by representing their voices in the Baltimore court system and advocating for their best interests in the judicial, educational, medical and social service communities. The nonprofit recruits, trains and supervises CASAs to provide written, objective recommendations to the Court; to serve as a consistent adult presence, and to monitor that child’s well-being.

As advocates, the volunteers ensure that their assigned child’s best interests are heard and understood by the Court. CASA volunteers aid in the transition from the foster care system to a safe permanent home