CASA of Tulare County
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Beyond the Cape
By Fache Desrochers
Not all superheroes wear capes.
This is actually common knowledge. Why, within the world of “masked heroes,” not even all of them wear masks. Costumes, methods of crime-fighting, personal motivation, even how “super” one’s powers may be – from a fireman to Spiderman, there are various types of super people. But there is one thing that all heroes have in common: a desire to stand up for those who are in trouble, a duty to fight for those who need a defender, and a mission to give help wherever it is needed, cape/mask optional.
At CASA of Tulare County, things run pretty much like any superhero fortress. But the fight here is not against anything (or anyone) so concrete as Lex Luthor or The Joker, but against child abuse and neglect. And the heroes are not mutants or martial artists (so far as we know), but rather volunteers whose main superpower is giving a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. These essential individuals are what is at the heart of CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocates, who are comprehensively trained, sworn in by the court and assigned to a child’s case.
Advocates develop a trusting relationship with their appointed child through weekly visits and thorough research of the child’s world. Advocates then present their information and recommendations to the court, helping to ensure that the decisions made by attorneys and social workers are well-informed and truly in the best interest of the child. “CASA advocates are so important in this process because social workers are inundated with cases, and the court is bound by the time constraints and specifics of their legal procedures,” explains CASA Executive Director Marilyn Barr. “But the beauty of our advocates is that their sole focus is what is in the best interest of the child. Our job is to ensure that the children know we’re there for them to speak up, stand up and show up on a consistent basis.”
“Our number-one need is for volunteers,” Barr says. “The courts will know how a child is being treated when CASA is on the case, because our advocates are the voice for the child, and the eyes and ears for the judge.”
It’s hard to imagine a more worthy pursuit than being the personal guardian of the galaxy of a child in need. But superhero street work is not for everyone, and advocacy is not the only way to support these children. One option is independent fundraising or donations. One local kindergarten class recently demonstrated the power that can be generated for kids, by kids.
Anthony Maldonado visited his son’s class to discuss what CASA does to help children in need, and the only question the schoolchildren had at the end of his presentation was how they could help. “I gave each child a blue piggy bank and encouraged them to fill it up by earning money doing chores, and boy did they ever step up,” says Maldonado. “We could all take note of the fact that if kindergarteners can help, so can adults.” Another option is to attend one of CASA’s fundraising events, like the 22nd annual gala dinner, “Once Upon A Dream,”on May 6.
“It’s called ‘Once Upon A Dream’ because we always want our kids to be able to dream big, and we want to help them achieve those dreams,” says Barr. The event will be catered by the Vintage Press, and features a silent and live auction. Many auction items are supplied by local businesses and individuals (donations are welcome), and have historically included private chef-prepared dinners, jewelry, Super Bowl tickets and trips abroad, to name a few.
Whether you donate your time or an auction prize, spread the word about CASA or speak directly to a judge on behalf of a child, there are many ways to be the hero that the at-risk youngsters of Tulare County need and deserve. As Spiderman’s Aunt May (truly one of the original advocates) says, “I believe there´s a hero in all of us that keeps us honest and noble.”
CASA of Tulare County is a non-profit organization.
CASA of Tulare County
1146 N. Chinowth St. Visalia
Once Upon a Dream
Friday, May 6
Visalia Convention Center