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Legislation will help volunteers advocate for children in Michigan's foster care system

Posted at 6:23 AM, Jul 05, 2024
  • CASA, short for Court Appointed Special Advocates, advocates for children in the foster care system.
  • According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, 10,000 children are in foster care in Michigan.
  • Video shows how CASA for Barry, Eaton, and Ingham counties has impacted foster children and how the legislation will help increase those efforts.

Taking care of some of our most vulnerable neighbors. A bill to be signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer will help an organization expand its reach in Michigan courtrooms and advocate for more voices of foster care children.
"When I would ask him what his wishes are he would say I want a house. I just want to live in a house. I don't want to live in this homeless shelter. I just want to live in a house."

Keeley Robinson has been working with court-appointed special advocates or CASA for over 3 years. Alongside Executive Director Rachel Swedburg, they work to advocate for children in Barry, Eaton, and Ingham counties.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, 10,000 children are in foster care in the state of Michigan. The Mitten state is the 10th most populous state but places 6th overall in the number of children in out-of-home care.

Thousands of children with an input.

"Sometimes that child's voice gets lost and our primary focus is that child's voice is heard," Swedburg said.

CASA does just that. Speaks for the smallest of voices.

The volunteer-based organization equips them with the training to work with one child or even a group of siblings during their entire foster care case. Anywhere and everywhere.

"We meet in homeless shelters, we meet in hospitals, we meet in foster homes, in aunts', uncles', grandparents' homes, we meet in the biological families' home. Wherever that child is is where we'll meet them," Robinson said.

Robinson says that due to the overpopulated foster care system, it is easy for children's needs to be missed like a child having trouble communicating.

"I read up on communication devices, met with the special education teacher, met with his placement which was his aunt, and now he has his communication device and now he is able to say 'I like basketball' for the first time ever," Robinson said.

With the passing of House Bill 5429, the special advocate volunteers can work with judges to connect with schools to help with education needs, access community resources for families, and ensure that the courts know what the child want and need.

"We have advocated for over 166 children over the three counties we work, we attended over 300 court hearings and put in over 2500 hours in the community connecting with children," Swedburg said.

And they already serve because the after-effects can make all the difference.

"The next time I met with him and said alright what are your wishes I guess I want to be on Dragon Ball Z. It was nice to see that he no longer had adult dreams," Robinson said.

If you are interested in being a CASA volunteer, head over to the CASA for Kids website linked here.

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