Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of opening the first-ever CASA Community Night event at the beautiful and historic Babcock Theatre. Our vision to host a community night came out of the understanding that the challenges children face in foster care require community-wide solutions. With close to 800 children in foster care in Yellowstone County alone, you can imagine many of these children experience loneliness and uncertainty in degrees most of us cannot even imagine. And so, on a lovely Tuesday evening, people from the Billings community gathered at the Babcock Theatre downtown to screen the film ReMoved and to learn about the mission and work of CASA of Yellowstone County from local volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates, the CASA Board President, and Judge Rod Souza, who serves the 13th Judicial District Court.
CASA of Yellowstone County’s mission is to advocate for a safe and permanent home for abused and neglected children in the Yellowstone County foster care system. What many people do not realize, however, is that a volunteer Advocate plays a truly integral role in the child welfare system and is often the only constant for children during their long journey through foster care. I cannot tell you how many children are in the system here in our community whose only constant has been their volunteer Advocate.
One thing I often hear from people in the community is, “I don’t know how you all do it. It must be so hard to see kids in these situations.” I won’t lie to you—of course it’s hard. These kids are placed into foster care for a reason, and they often come from backgrounds of severe trauma and hardship. But I believe if you pulled any Advocate out of the crowd and asked them why they are still here, they would tell you it is worth it.
It is worth it to step out of your comfort zone and stand up for these kids.
It is worth it to get to know these amazing and unique children and to help carry their burdens with them.
It is worth it to be the string that ties all the people on the case together to keep the process running smoothly.
It is worth it to help a child thrive and heal.
It is worth it to keep siblings connected.
Most importantly, it is worth it to see a child find safety and permanency.
You do not need to bring a law degree or a child psychology background to the table to be a CASA. You need to bring dedication, love, patience, an open mind, an open heart, and a willingness to learn. That’s it. We can take care of the rest.
I would really encourage anyone interested in becoming a CASA to visit our website’s volunteer page to see when upcoming Information Sessions are scheduled. Attend a quick 45-minute session and consider becoming a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate for a child in foster care. The future of our community depends on us contributing and caring for its most vulnerable members.
I hope to see you at a future CASA Community Night!
Emily Gaudreau is the Development Director for CASA of Yellowstone County.