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Volunteers change lives and save taxpayer dollars

GLOBE-Consider making a difference during Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 1-7

The first full week of April is set aside each year to honor and thank volunteers. But if you ask the 65 million Americans who donate their time and talents to nonprofits, most would say that they’re the ones who should be thankful.

“One of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done is helping abused and neglected children navigate the often overwhelming foster care system so they can find safe and permanent homes,” says local CASA volunteer, Ginny Ennen. “It feels great to know I’ve made such a difference in the life of a child.”

Court-appointed special advocates are volunteers empowered by the courts to advocate for children in foster care, to help protect their rights and safety, and to guide them through the child welfare system. For many abused children, a CASA volunteer is the only constant adult presence in their lives.

The child welfare system is too overburdened to provide this one-to-one advocacy. An entire year of CASA volunteer advocacy costs the same as a single month of foster care. In fiscal year 2017, CASA volunteers in Arizona contributed 91,919 advocacy hours, the equivalent of more than $2 million in taxpayer dollars if they had been compensated for their service.

And CASA volunteers are not only efficient, they’re very effective! Foster children who have a CASA volunteer by their side are more likely to succeed in school; substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care; and are half as likely to re-enter foster care all as a result of finding a safe, nurturing permanent home.

CASA of Gila County is grateful for the 12 volunteers who stand up for foster children in our communities. But many more children are waiting for advocates of their own. Currently only 8 children (9%) are being represented by an adult advocate, other than an attorney within Gila County. Local community members are being asked to step up and advocate for the best interest of the 86 children who are presently in the child welfare system, awaiting court proceedings to determine their future.

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