DENTON — Most nonprofit organizations will agree that volunteers are an integral part of the important work they do in the community and every organization will tell you they have the best volunteers. But according to Amy Horne, director of Outreach and Partnerships at CASA of Caroline, “Our incredible volunteers truly are the backbone of our organization. We could not provide voices in court to children in foster care without them.”

In May, the organization welcomed two new volunteers who’ve made the commitment to advocate on a child’s behalf. In a still closed courtroom on May 3, Caroline Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Newell administered the CASA oath to Ashley Cox of Denton and Stacy Frank of Ridgely. Prior to their official swearing in, Newell noted the important role of a CASA volunteer, saying “the presence of a steady CASA volunteer provides something that we otherwise can’t guarantee in our system.”

He said, “It’s a very fulfilling job, although I’m sure at times frustrating and even heartbreaking, but it is very much appreciated.”

After the small ceremony, CASA Executive Director Shelly Kulp said, “We are grateful for the commitment Ashley and Stacy have made on behalf of children and youth in the Caroline County foster care system and welcome them as our county’s newest Court-Appointed Special Advocates.”

With the addition of these two women, CASA of Caroline now has 12 trained and active volunteers.

Kulp noted, “During the pandemic, we had 10 active volunteers who, in spite of court shutdowns, social distancing and CDC guidelines, were able to volunteer over 330 hours and drive over 2,500 miles to serve and protect the best interests of children and youth in Caroline County foster care.”

In honor and recognition of CASA of Caroline volunteers’ hard work and dedication throughout the pandemic, the Board of Directors and staff held an appreciation luncheon on Tuesday, May 11, outside at the Caroline Culinary Arts Center. Kulp thanked each volunteer for the compassion and commitment they demonstrated throughout the challenging logistics of a global pandemic.

“You are the heart of what we do. Every child and youth in Caroline County deserves to live in a safe and stable home. You are part of the team that makes that happen for them. Your sacrifice and passion are demonstrated by the way you speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves,” Kulp said.

Bob Friday, president of the Board of Directors and one-time CASA volunteer advocate, also commended the volunteers for their efforts during such a challenging year.

“Your dedication to children in foster care this past year provided them with a sense of security, dependability, honesty and caring that is foreign to so many of them. Despite a global pandemic, each one of you made an indelible difference in the life of a child. For that, we thank you,” Friday said.

Each volunteer was presented with a copy of “Three Little Words,” the memoir of a girl who spent nine difficult years in the foster care system and eventually discovered her own voice.

CASA volunteers are people from all walks of life who have been rigorously screened and trained. Each volunteer receives 30 hours of pre-service training, with an additional 12 hours of continued education annually.

A CASA volunteer is a sworn officer of the court who provides the judge or magistrate with the information needed to make well-informed decisions and help ensure positive outcomes for children and youth in foster care. These superheroes not only advocate for the children within the court, child welfare and school systems, but also form relationships with them that last for years. They take the time to get to know the child at the heart of each case. They also work in partnership with legal and child welfare professionals, educators and service providers to ensure the child has what is needed to heal and thrive.

A child in foster care may have faced physical, psychological and/or emotional trauma along with long periods of uncertainty in the foster care system. But having a caring, consistent adult – someone who listens, checks in and puts the child’s best interest before all others’ – can make all the difference. It can “Change a Child’s Story.”

Do you want to make a difference and “Change a Child’s Story”? CASA is currently recruiting for the next training class, scheduled to begin in September. For more information or to fill-out an application, visit www.carolinecasa.org or call Shelly Kulp at 410-479-8301.

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