Sept. 15 marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the culture and traditions of U.S. residents who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize and honor the history, culture and contributions of the Hispanic community. For many Hispanic children growing up in the foster care system, however, it can be challenging for them to identify with their culture. That is why the Washoe CASA Foundation is asking for more Hispanic and bilingual members of the community to become CASA volunteers (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and speak up for Hispanic children in the foster care system.
When children are uprooted from their homes due to abuse or neglect and placed in foster care, they are often not only separated from their families, but also from every other part of their lives like their church, school and community. What’s more, their foster families may have different cultural values, which can further deter them from learning about and celebrating their heritage.
It is not uncommon that a child in foster care will be placed in a home that does not speak their primary language or hold their same cultural beliefs. They need someone they can relate to; someone who can comfortably and effectively communicate with them and advocate for their best interests.
CASA volunteers are everyday members of the community who are trained and appointed by judges to advocate in court for children who have been abused or neglected. They form a relationship with the children and become acquainted with everyone involved in their lives, such as parents, teachers and therapists, so that they can make informed recommendations to the court. Their goal is to ensure these children are safe, their needs are met and their voice is being heard while they are in foster care.
The Washoe CASA Foundation is always seeking volunteers of all demographics, but Hispanic and bilingual volunteers are urgently needed due to the large number of Hispanic children in the foster care system. Today, approximately 27% of the children in care statewide identify as Hispanic. There is a crucial need for more Hispanic and bilingual volunteers for these children. We have very few active CASAs that speak Spanish.
While all of our volunteers are prepared to advocate for any child, it’s ideal for our volunteers to reflect the children they serve because they may be better able to trust and open up to someone who shares similar customs and experiences. We hope it will allow them to form a bond that will result in better advocacy for their unique needs in court, school and other settings.
It is the Washoe Count Foundation's goal, and the goal of the greater CASA community, to grow to provide a CASA volunteer for every child in the foster care system, giving them a better chance at a brighter future.
Our volunteers are extraordinary people who speak up for children in foster care. This Hispanic Heritage Month, we hope you will consider making a difference for children who have been abused or neglected by becoming a CASA volunteer.
Join the Washoe CASA Foundation for our next information session, Coffee with CASA. Please click this link to find out when our next Coffee with CASA and for more information.