OTTUMWA — Some describe CASA Program Planner Cara Galloway as a superhero for helping children. Now Galloway wants to give residents the opportunity to become superheroes of their own by dedicating their time to being a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer.)
Galloway talked about the benefits of volunteering for Iowa Citizens Foster Care Review Board (ICFRB) and CASA. For Galloway it comes down to a person advocating for a child in need. “You’re being a voice for that child,” she said.
“With foster care review board you work together to come up with ideas and recommendations that someone may have not have thought of, or be that sounding board who don’t have that voice.”
Galloway said becoming a volunteer for both can even help others evaluate the foster care system and the changes that have come with it. While Galloway said it was hard to pinpoint how the system should change, she did say what it should provide.
“We need to put families first,” she said. “With that there will be changes all over the board that will be positive for children in care.”
Galloway said foster kids who get appointed a CASA volunteer will generally not lose their case worker, which allows for connection and security for the children.
“Even if they move an hour away,” Galloway said, “that person with CASA stays with them and checks up on them to make sure they are safe. It also gives a voice to the older kids moving around that feel like they don’t have a voice.”
If at any point a CASA volunteer cannot attend a court hearing or speak on behalf of a child, then another CASA volunteer will step in and be that advocate. If a location is too far then Galloway will help establish a closer connection for the child.
There are some CASA volunteers in Wapello County, with six recently coming on board, but Galloway hopes to get at least 20. She has been getting the word out through social media and in person. She said it hasn’t been easy, but she continues advertising because of the goal she has for ICFRB.
“My goal is to get a full board because the kids deserve it,” she said. “We’re really working on how we can continue to be a valuable resource for families.”
Galloway guarantees that anyone who volunteers will have a positive experience, even if there may be up’s and down’s to the cases. She said the best reaction is when people start the training especially when they come in with the mindset that people who abuse their children are bad and then start thinking about the circumstances that led that parent to abuse their children.
“At the end of the training, you see the conversations that they’re having about ‘oh this is a cycle, I didn’t know their mental health was severe,’ so you see these conversations changing and their reactions changing and may have already been compassionate, but their compassion becomes greater.”