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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : opinions : columns November 24, 2015

6/22/2012 9:59:00 PM
Talk of the Town: Local support exists for foster kids
By Diana Dalsass
Special to the Courier

Recently, a statewide Associated Press story appeared in The Daily Courier about the recent "Flood of Foster Children" in Arizona. The article stated the increase in cases has led to a longer time that children end up spending in foster homes, waiting lists for court-ordered services aimed to help families be reunified with their children, and added caseloads for Child Protective Services (CPS) case managers and attorneys representing these children and their parents.

Although this article depicted the situation in the entire state, the statistics for Yavapai County are just as bleak. As of April 1, 2012, there were approximately 400 children in dependent care who had been removed from their families due to abuse and/or neglect. In addition, 90 cases were still awaiting investigation by CPS (representing many more children than this number, of course), with investigations performed on a most-at-risk priority basis.

Residents of this area may wonder how they can help. One organization that provides support to the children who are now wards of the court, their families and CPS is the program composed of Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers. As a CASA volunteer, I perform a number of tasks that provide immense personal satisfaction to me, in addition to helping our overburdened foster care system.

For example, one of my cases involves a teenage girl whose mother moved to the Midwest with her boyfriend and a father who lives approximately three hours away but cannot "afford" money for gas to visit his daughter, despite having the funds to drink sufficient alcohol to prevent the girl from being returned to his care. One other volunteer and I are the only ones who ever visit this girl. We take her out to buy clothes and get her hair trimmed, attend her softball games, treat her to meals at local restaurants, and just spend time with her on such activities as decorating greeting cards or teaching her to knit and crochet.

Many of these children have never been exposed to experiences that children from healthy families take for granted. For example, a pre-teen I was working with requested that I take her to the circus. On the way there, she asked me what a circus was, so I explained. I then asked her why she had wanted to go, if she didn't know what a circus was, and her response was, "My friends at school said that it's fun."

For another of my cases, this one involving teenage boys, I took them to eat at Olive Garden. One of the boys, rather embarrassedly, held up the first cloth napkin that he had ever seen and asked if this was a napkin. When I assured him that it was, he breathed a sigh of relief, saying that this was good since he had already wiped his mouth with it.

The CASA program is always in need of more volunteers. For information, please contact the CASA office at 771-3165.

Another way local residents can help is to support Yavapai CASA for Kids Inc., a non-profit organization providing items and services for these children that are not covered by any other funding source. This might include bedroom furniture so a relative is able to provide a home for the children or braces for teeth that had never been properly cared for.

In 2011, CASA for Kids gave out grants totaling nearly $50,000 for this purpose. One of the greatest needs at present is for clothing for these children, who often enter foster care with nothing but the worn-out clothing they are currently wearing. Sadly, foster parents receive a woefully inadequate $112 per year per child for clothing. These funds are distributed only every six months, so if a child enters the foster home with no clothes, a parent might need to wait several months before receiving an allowance to purchase items for the child. CASA for Kids has allocated $20,000 in 2012 specifically for clothing for children in foster care.

If anyone wishes to donate to CASA for Kids, the address is P.O. Box 12457, Prescott, AZ 86304. CASA for Kids also needs board members and volunteers to help with the projects. Anyone wishing to offer services should contact Laura Taylor at 776-2457 or Laura.taylor@prodigy.net.

Another organization that provides support to these children is the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic, which sees approximately 1,200 children a year, including virtually all children who have been removed from their homes. Anyone who deals with these children can relate to the trauma they undergo when taken from their parents and placed in a strange home, and can understand why these children could easily require therapy to help them deal with their grief and confusion.

The clinic receives some financial support from the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic Foundation, which seeks to raise funds and mount programs to pay for treatment costs that are not covered by any other source. One program the Foundation is currently hoping to fund would provide short-term counseling to families in crisis who do not have access to mental health coverage. The aim is to help these families before it becomes necessary for CPS to step in and remove the children from the home.

Anyone who would like to donate to the Foundation or receive an application to join the Foundation Board, should contact Laura Norman at 445-5211, ext. 2650 or L.Norman@wygc.org.

Please think about these children and help in any way you can.

Diana Dalsass of Prescott is a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer; secretary for Yavapai CASA for Kids Inc.; West Yavapai Guidance Clinic board member; and chair of the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic Foundation

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012
Article comment by: Elyse Ted

Programs like this can do wonders to change the odds for foster care kids. Did you know that 25 percent of all foster kids are incarcerated within 24 months of leaving care? It's time for more mentoring to change that statistic. Check out other info on foster care: http://www.kidspeace.org/news.aspx?id=3709

Posted: Saturday, June 23, 2012
Article comment by: Thanks to all volunteers and charities

CASA and WYGC are two of the most important organizations in our community.

I'm sorry to bring up politics here, but it's a shame that individuals don't have more money and time to spare for volunteering and charity.
State and federal governments, central banking, and Big Biz have diverted most of our financial resources to frivolous consumerism and to the U.S. Department of "Defense".

Yet, I suspect that many people could spare more time and money for charity. Next time you go to buy new furniture, appliances, vehicles, electronics, personal entertainment, etc., consider charity as an alternative.

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