With a surge of child neglect and abuse cases expected because of COVID-19, the graduation of 25 volunteer advocates and two interns is cause for celebration, CASA of New Hampshire says.
The nonprofit recruits, trains and supervises volunteers to act as advocates for children in the court system.
“For 31 years, CASA’s classroom-style 40-hour training has been its cornerstone for preparing volunteers to provide courtroom advocacy for abused and neglected children,” a CASA news release states. “But when the governor issued a stay-at-home order in March, CASA’s training team responded by creating this fully-immersive, virtual pre-service training. This new approach to safely provide training is critical for the coming months.”
Going virtual with Zoom sessions and assignments in Google Classroom has also established the capability to train volunteers from every corner of the state at the same time to be ready to take new cases wherever they come in, CASA says.
“Within two weeks of the stay-at-home order, reports of abuse and neglected dropped by about 50 percent, not because it isn’t happening, but because it isn’t being seen by people like teachers and daycare providers who are the most common reporters,” said CASA of New Hampshire CEO and President Marty Sink.
“We have started seeing cases reported more as the state re-opens, but we are expecting a surge of many more in the coming months and we need to have advocates trained and ready to take those cases.”
In the first two virtual classes, new advocates came from Alton Bay, Amherst, Bedford, Concord, Hanover, Keene, Lebanon, Littleton, Londonderry, Madison, Manchester, Marlborough, Merrimack, Milford, Moultonborough, Nashua, New Ipswich, North Conway, Nottingham, Peterborough, Salem, Strafford, Stratham, West Chesterfield, and Brattleboro, Vt.
In addition to virtual training, CASA volunteers have been meeting with their children at least once a month via video chat, or having phone conversations, exchanging letters in the mail and, as the weather became nicer, started with some socially distanced visits in outdoor spaces.
“The opportunity to be trained virtually is safe and convenient, and I never felt I didn’t glean all the necessary training, discussion, role play, and coaching that is vital to preparing me for this role,” said Brittney Joyce, a volunteer from Hanover who graduated from virtual training in June.
CASA is accepting applicants for future virtual training sessions beginning Aug. 3, Sept. 16, Oct. 19 and Nov. 10.
Interested volunteers can submit their applications or join an upcoming virtual information session to learn more about the role CASA volunteer advocates play in the lives of New Hampshire’s abused and neglected children. Virtual info sessions are held every other Tuesday.
Learn more at www.casanh.org.