Wadsworth Resident Joins CASA Lake County to Help Fight Child Abuse
Rachel Belk, of Wadsworth, was sworn in on September 30, 2021, by the Lake County Juvenile Court as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). Ms. Belk, in conjunction with CASA Lake County, will be working to support, protect and advocate for local children who have been victims of child abuse, domestic violence and neglect.
Ms. Belk was sworn in with 12 other new CASAs. She joins a force of nearly 300 dedicated volunteers trained by CASA Lake County to serve children whose cases are active in Lake County Juvenile Court. Most of the children are in foster care.
"I am really looking forward to my journey as a CASA," said Ms. Belk. "I want to be a constant support for a child who is going through a stressful life change and I want them to know that they can always rely on me to be there for them. I want to advocate for the children who can't advocate for themselves. I am also looking forward to being a part of this extremely knowledgeable and supportive CASA community."
The number of child victims of abuse and neglect has grown substantially in Lake County in recent years. To help protect the welfare of these children, CASA Lake County has broadened its recruiting efforts and advocacy training program for new volunteers. Anyone interested in making a difference in a child's life is urged to contact the organization.
"We are searching for dedicated volunteers to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates for vulnerable children,"said Terri Zenner Greenberg, Executive Director of CASA Lake County. "Since the start of the pandemic, the number of Lake County children entering protective care has skyrocketed. At the same time, a number of volunteers have had to step back because of the impact of Covid-19 on their own lives."
"Volunteers with a variety of skills and backgrounds are all very much appreciated," continued Ms. Zenner Greenberg. "We'd love to see more men joining us in our work and serving as role models. Anyone who is fluent in Spanish is particularly needed. There is no requirement to have experience in criminal justice or social work. What matters is a volunteer's consistency and a commitment to advocate impartially for the best interests of children in foster care. Adults of every background can successfully fill this role."
What do CASA volunteers do? CASAs build long-term, caring relationships with the children in their assigned cases. CASAs coordinate and share recommendations with caregivers and service providers. They also report to the court regarding health, education and family issues and recommend actions and interventions that may be needed.
The goal of a CASA is to give voice to each child's unique needs and to make sure that the best interests of each child are being met. CASAs seek to assure that each child is secured in a safe, permanent home in which they can thrive.
CASA volunteers must successfully complete an in-depth, 40-hour training program. Over the past year, the training has been conducted online.
Any adult interested in volunteering with CASA Lake County, please contact Lori Petersen (email@example.com) and/or visit our website: www.casalakecounty.com/menus/volunteer and submit an application.