According to the state Department of Human Resources, there are 2,400 children in foster care in Baltimore City this year; however, only 10 percent of those in need have representation from a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
Taking aim at that disparity, CASA of Baltimore Inc. has welcomed a dozen new advocates — a diverse group that includes students, a sales associate, a security guard, an MTA manager, a nonprofit manager, a service coordination associate, and an assistant state prosecutor.
After completing 30 hours of classroom training and two to three hours of court observation, the 12 were sworn in by Baltimore City Circuit Judge Robert Kershaw and are now officially able to help abused or neglected children in foster care.
Toyin Ogunfolaju, a resident of Mt. Washington and manager for the Maryland Transit Authority’s Mobility Services, said she’s always wanted to be involved with programs that “enhance the lives of children,” especially in her own community.
“I decided that waiting around for the perfect opportunity to get involved in my community would never come if I sat waiting around, so the time to start helping Baltimore’s kids in need is now,” Ogunfolaju said in a CASA news release after the ceremony.
Sworn in with Ogunfolaju were Katherine Anthony of Mt. Washington, Alagra Bass of Hunting Ridge, Daniela Beall of Hampden, Lotoria Bowman of Druid Heights, Shanay Brown of Baltimore County, Jennifer Dawson of Glen Burnie, Jennifer Nazaire of Ellicott City, Winston Parks-Bey of Mosher, Sarah Petersen of Catonsville, Keith Savage of Edmondson Village, and Carlene Young of Mid-Town Belevedere.
Nancy Blackwell, Executive Director for CASA of Baltimore hopes there will be many more to come. “We are a ways away from serving every child in need,” she said in the Jan. 29 statement, “so we urge members of the Baltimore community to step forward and see if becoming a CASA volunteer is right for them.”
CASA of Baltimore Inc. is one of 15 programs in the state that recruit, train, and oversee volunteers to serve as advocates for children whose families have been cited for abuse and neglect by a juvenile or domestic relations court.
For more information, go to http://www.casabalt.org.