Help kids in New Hampshire by becoming a CASA

To the Editor:

In 2016, New Hampshire experienced over 500 opioid-related deaths. Unfortunately, this number is only the tip of this iceberg of the number of children whose young lives are impacted by drug abuse.

The innocent victims of this epidemic are the children who are exposed to the trauma of their parents’ addictions and the babies who are born to mothers who can’t even care for themselves. With parents constantly focused on finding money or drugs to support their next fix, many children are neglected and without proper care, food or shelter. These children are often placed in foster care while the state and court system work with the parents to provide a safe and stable home for the kids. The state appoints a lawyer to speak for each parent, but the child’s only voice is their court-appointed special advocate (CASA). Please consider how you could help a child during this critical period in their tender life.

I became a CASA last year, and it has been a truly remarkable experience. A CASA is a trained volunteer who looks out for the best interest of the child, offers some stability during a time of turmoil in their young life and provides them with a voice in court. As a CASA, I meet with the child, parents, foster families, caseworkers and teachers on a regular basis to monitor the case and provide a voice for the child as their case moves through the court system.

CASA volunteers come from all walks and stages of life. At first glance, my “day job” as an engineer may appear to be far removed from the role of a social worker or lawyer, but I have found that my life experience as a parent, manager, mentor and organizer have provided me with most of the necessary skills. CASA NH provides all the training, tools and ongoing support for the skills that I lacked.

Most CASAs spend a few hours each week on a single case at a time, with a case that typically lasts about a year. Due to the unforgiving and increasing heroin crisis, the number of children who need a CASA to speak for them has never been greater, and unfortunately, not every child will get a CASA. Please consider standing up for a young child during this most vulnerable period of their life. Training is offered on a rolling schedule throughout the state, with the next Manchester class scheduled for May. To get started, simply complete the application available at casanh.org/onlineapplication or call the CASA office at 626-4600.

Pete King

Mont Vernon

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