I have been a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer since 2003 and have advocated on behalf of seven children. I currently have two cases, but have had as many as five, the first one lasting over five years. That first case involved a child who was severely disabled and unable to speak. We met in New Orleans, but she evacuated to north Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. I was very concerned about her as she turned 18 and moved to a group home setting with no way to communicate. We contacted Louisiana Guardianship Services — a group with a very large caseload — to see about having a guardian appointed to her for life. Thankfully, they took her case, and I’m pleased to report that she is happy and healthy and still living in north Louisiana.

This is our goal as CASA volunteers — to find a safe and permanent home for every child in the foster care system. That home may be a new adoptive family, reunification with family or a guardianship — whatever it takes to get that child to a safe and permanent home. As a CASA volunteer, I never wonder if I am making a difference in the life of a child. It’s what we do.

As CASA volunteers, we work as an advocate for each child assigned to us, maintaining contact with the child’s parents, foster parents and teachers, among others. While others involved in the foster care system have large caseloads, CASA volunteers focus on one or two children at a time. We have access to all people involved with the child such as teachers, doctors and therapists. This allows us to learn more about the child and report that information to the court, which we do every six months as the case progresses through the system.

Many people assume that they need to be lawyers or otherwise involved in the legal system to be a CASA volunteer. In fact, anyone who cares about children can be a volunteer. The training is very effective, and no special knowledge is necessary.

I am proud to be a part of a positive and effective solution for children who are placed into the foster care system, due to neglect or abuse. Since 1992, CASA has trained 1,226 volunteers that have advocated for over 2,700 children. By helping these children find a safe and permanent home, we are keeping them in school, off the streets and out of prison. Our hope is that one day the cycle will be broken — the cycle that resulted in the child being placed in the system to begin with. Until then our goal is to be a voice for one child at a time.

Laurie Kadair

CASA volunteer

Baton Rouge