Many ways to help foster kids

Rome

The Communicare/College Savings Club of Hermiston High School awarded a $3,000 grant to Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), a program with Umatilla-Morrow County Head Start that serves children in foster care.

“Youth helping other youth triumph in difficult circumstances is always an inspiration,” Maureen McGrath, executive director at UMCHS, said in a statement, “and this donation will help us make sure we find caring adults for every child in need.”

According to a news release, the money received from the grant will go toward training community volunteers to become advocates for foster care children, as well as allowing the CASA program to purchase arts and crafts supplies for activities that advocates do with the children during their visits.

Jesus Rome, CASA program manager, said, “What I really loved about receiving this grant for our local CASA program was that our local Hermiston High School students hand-selected a few our local nonprofits to receive the Communicare award.”

These students selected the nonprofit program and felt its mission and purpose was deserving of an award. Currently, there are close to 300 foster children in care in Umatilla and Morrow counties, and the CASA program is serving 110 foster youths. Rome adds, “As one can see by these numbers, we are always in need of more community volunteers to be advocates.”

The mission of Umatilla-Morrow CASA is for trained volunteers to advocate for safe, permanent, loving homes for all children in foster care in Eastern Oregon. CASAs are volunteers whose duties are to gather information from families, social service agencies, public safety departments, and other resources. In order to have the full picture, a CASA also makes contact with the child and family and follows progress though appropriate treatment programs, which may include anger management and alcohol/drug programs. Recommendations as to the child’s best interests are then presented to family court.

In summary, a CASA’s main function is to be the voice, ears and eyes for the judge on behalf of children in care.

Since 2008, the local CASA program is structured under the umbrella organization of UMCHS, a multipurpose nonprofit agency serving families and children in 11 rural, frontier and small urban counties in northeastern Oregon. To become a CASA, volunteers complete a thorough background check and complete 30 hours of training, which includes recognizing and building family strengths, diversity, inclusion, report writing, and courtroom observations. New CASAs are assigned a mentor for bi-weekly check in, attend CASA Connect gatherings, and are required continuing education training, which are offered online and in-person.

For information about the CASA program in Hermiston, contact Rome or Diane Shockman, Hermiston CASA coordinator, at 541-667-6091.

Donations to the program may be made by going to UMCHS.org and clicking on the donate link.

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