Abused, neglected children get help from Marin court-appointed special advocates

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SUSAN MCQUAID, BY SUSAN MCQUAID

Here’s a fact that may come as a shock to you: Every year in Marin County, more than 1,000 reports of suspected child abuse, neglect and abandonment are made to authorities.

As a result, children at risk are removed from their homes and, through no fault of their own, become dependents of the Marin Juvenile Court system. Inevitably, these children are filled with overwhelming fear, anxiety, disappointment, worry and shame.

For 30 years, many of these extremely vulnerable children in the juvenile dependency, delinquency or probate system were assigned a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) by the presiding judge of Juvenile Court.

These highly trained CASA volunteers played a fundamental role speaking up for children in the courtroom. Often, they were the only consistent adult helping a child get through one of the most difficult and unsettling times in their young lives. The CASAs remained on a case from beginning to end and advocated for the child’s critical needs including medical care, mental health, and education. They made recommendations to find their assigned child the most safe, secure, and permanent home possible. These CASAs often spent hundreds of hours on their cases and as required, made their highly-valued recommendations to the Court.

In January 2017 the program, which had been run by Marin Advocates for Children, was terminated by the court.

Determined to save the program, a group of active CASAs quickly formed a grass roots effort to restore the integrity of the Marin CASA program through the startup of a new nonprofit organization.

Marin CASA was incorporated and received its nonprofit status in record time. The new board and staff busily leased office space, developed the new program’s procedures and returned qualified CASA volunteers to the courtroom advocating once again for their assigned children. The support of Beverly Wood, presiding judge of Marin Juvenile Court, the Marin Community Foundation, the California CASA Association, current and former CASAs and longtime community supporters, enabled the new Marin CASA program to open its doors in March 2017.

Today, the new Marin CASA program is comprised of more than 45 advocates, four experienced staff and nine board members.

The organization’s vision is to see every child thrive in a safe, permanent and supportive home. The program staff and volunteers are bound by a set of values that include commitment, integrity, compassion and respect.

Our experienced CASA volunteers and newly trained CASAs are fully engaged in their roles, advocating for the best options for the safety, permanency and well-being of their assigned children and providing the necessary reports to Judge Wood.

Working closely with Children and Family Services, parents, grandparents, foster parents, attorneys, teachers, health professionals, and community service providers, Marin CASAs are doing what they are trained to do — providing a voice for abused, neglected or abandoned children and helping them envision a brighter future.

If you are interested in learning more about our program or would like to volunteer or donate, please contact Robyn Roberts, Executive Director at 415-785-3862; 1401 Los Gamos Drive, Suite 130, San Rafael; www.marincasa.org.