Webster Parish CASA and North Acres Baptist Church are teaming up to host a foster parent appreciation party Sunday, Jan. 14.
Amber Bradford, Webster Parish CASA supervisor, said the event is both a celebration and a fact-finding mission so that CASA may better serve foster parents in the area.
“It’s going to be a huge event,” Bradford said. “We’ll be giving away a huge door prize and some other smaller prizes. We just want to tell foster parents we appreciate them. We want to gather information from them to see what they need so that we can help them stay foster parents. It’s hard to be a foster parent.”
Attendees must be certified foster parents and have a ticket from Bradford. Call the Webster CASA office at 318-371-0722 for more information.
CASA stands for “court-appointed special advocate.” For foster children, Bradford said CASA volunteers provide both a voice in court and a presence in their lives.
“We advocate for kids in the courtroom,” she said. “Everyone is a volunteer. They do thirty hours of training and get sworn in by a judge. The advocates do court reports – they go out and see the child in the home and make sure they get what they need.”
Bradford said she hopes the party on Sunday will be the starting point for continued support for foster parents from CASA and North Acres.
“North Acres has basically taken on CASA as a mission,” she said. “At the party we’ll ask the parents what they need and then provide in-services at North Acres for all the foster parents.”
Unlike most parishes, every child in Webster Parish is appointed CASA by the court, according to Bradford.
“We’re very lucky that our judges love CASA,” she said. “All of our judges read all of our letters and court reports.
Every time the children go to court, they see us.”
While the Department of Children and Family Services may assign up to 20 cases per caseworker, Webster CASA has a strict one-to-one ratio between children and advocates. Due to this personal focus, 11 foster children are currently on the waiting list for an advocate. While this number is much smaller than in other parishes, Bradford is working for a day when every foster child can have a CASA.
“We just need more advocates,” she said. “I want advocates waiting for kids, not kids waiting for advocates. It’s very rewarding to be a CASA. It’s not easy. You want to take these children home with you and hold them forever. The main thing we want for them is safety and permanency in their lives.”
Becoming an advocate is the foremost high-commitment way for parish residents to support CASA, but it is not the only way.
“Everyone wants to help because Minden is such a giving town,” Bradford said. “But they didn’t know how to help. When I started last February, I began the birthday sponsorships.”
Many foster children have never celebrated their birthday, so Bradford began posting the children’s birthday wishes, without their names, on a Facebook group. Residents claim one of the presents on Facebook and buy it for the child.
The child’s advocate delivers the presents on the child’s birthday.
Aside from becoming an advocate, Bradford said the birthday sponsorships are the best way to get involved. She said 24 birthdays were sponsored last year, and seven sponsorships have already been confirmed for 2018.
The next training sessions for potential advocates will take place February 3 and 10 in Arcadia. Those interested either in becoming an advocate or sponsoring a child’s birthday can call the Webster CASA office at 318-371-0722.