LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — There are thousands of children in the Clark County Foster Care system. Each one has a story, but not all of them have an advocate.
That’s what CASA does.
CASA matches Foster Children with adult volunteers who help represent them in court, but volunteers typically do so much more.
"I didn't know how it was going to grow up. I didn't know my life. I didn't know what I was going to do, and so that is also another reason why I got CASA," said Diamond, a former foster child.
15 years old and eight months pregnant, Diamond was matched with Felicia, her CASA volunteer. It was the beginning of a life-long relationship.
"Felicia was always there by my side to kind of ground," she said. "And when I couldn't speak, she's an advocate. She spoke for me. And when she spoke for me, I always just felt a sense of relief."
Felicia was Diamond's CASA and is still one of her closest friends. Felicia says she became a CASA because there was a time in her life when she wished she had a CASA of her own.
"I was a former foster child. I was in foster care for 10 years from the age of three to 13," explained Felicia. "I always wanted to give back and I didn't know what I was going to do, but I always wanted to do work with foster kids."
"I didn't necessarily want to be a foster parent just because I had children of my own, but I definitely wanted to do something, and believe it or not, I was watching Dr.Phil and they spoke about CASA," she said.
Other CASA’s have gone as far as to adopt the kids they are matched with. You might remember our Wednesday's Child story from last Halloween — but that’s not expected. CASA just needs people to speak on behalf of a vulnerable child.
"We have CASA volunteers in seven courtrooms, and each of those judges really value having a CASA volunteer in their courtroom because they know that these constant volunteers are spending time with these children," said Shelia Parks, a CASA program administrator.
"[The volunteers] get to really know those children's needs and they [the judges] really listen to those recommendations because they know that those CASA volunteers are only there to advocate for the best interest of those children," Parks added. "They have no other agenda but to advocate for those children."
Advocacy is greatly needed.
"There are only 400 CASA workers and thousands of kids, and it's strenuous on the CASA workers when it comes to taking on cases," said Diamond.
"They have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 kids. It's too much," she said. "Especially when they have to balance their daily life. So if people want to give back to the community, if people want to help, if people want to see happiness, and I say, you should become a CASA worker."
Most CASA volunteers will tell you that they think they’re the ones whose lives are enriched, more so than the foster child.
Those interested in becoming a CASA volunteer can visit casalasvegas.org or call 702-455-4306 to learn more.