By Brogan Cordova, Contributor
This special section of the Gateway, which features stories on UNO students and faculty who volunteer, was submitted by the School of Communication’s “News Writing and Reporting” students, under the supervision of Professor Kevin Warneke.
When parents are accused of neglect or abuse, what children want and need can be lost in the legal proceedings of their parents or guardians. CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates, assigns volunteers to families to look after the safety and well being of the children during domestic legal cases.
Carol Buffington, publications manager for the Gateway, has been volunteering for CASA since September.
This is Buffington’s first case and she is currently helping a family with two boys and one girl, all in grade school. She said in most cases, it takes about two years or less for CASA to find children a stable, permanent home.
“These kids are wonderful. I really like them,” Buffington said. “I could pick these kids to be my grandkids.”
Buffington found CASA while looking for another job to supplement her income. Although it doesn’t pay, she said, she decided to volunteer because it was a cause she believed in.
She took a 10-week class, where she was taught the different ways she could help families.
Georgie Scurfield, the CASA coordinator for Sarpy County, said volunteers must be 21 or older and able to commit eight to 10 hours to their assigned family every month. She said CASA also has “stringent” background checks on volunteers, including past problems such as substance abuse and child abuse.
A CASA volunteer working with one family at a time can make a difference, Scurfield said.
“What the CASA volunteer does is give the children that they work with someone who really knows them over the long haul,” Scurfield said.
Buffington writes reports to judges representing the children’s interests and helps to get them things they need such as bikes or money to go to camps. She also checks to make sure adults follow court orders.
In general, she said, her role is to do whatever it is to keep the children’s lives as normal as possible.
Buffington adjusts her schedule around volunteering to make sure she’s with the family whenever she’s needed. She has enjoyed getting to know her assigned children, joining them for events from basketball games to Christmas celebrations.
Buffington said CASA is a “needed program” and that every child who gets taken out of his or her home should be represented by a CASA volunteer.