Children and families grappling with the foster care system often feel like no one is in their corner. Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers can play a vital role in helping them navigate the system and life. The Advertiser tells the story of one former foster youth in Lafayette, Louisiana, who got the help he needed from the program:
In and out of state care since he was a young boy, [Blake] Safarik was neglected and abused by his mother. He said the state took him out of the home he shared with his mom and sister when he was 11. From there, he was shuffled between group homes and foster care.
This is a common story for kids stuck in long-term foster care, but Blake was lucky enough to have CASA volunteer Butch Dupre in his corner. Dupre helped connect Blake to the services he needed and, after the state moved Blake to out-of-town group homes, convinced a judge to have him moved back to Lafayette, near his family.
The bond between them is so strong that Dupre even fostered Blake for his last year in the system.
“He has done a lot for me,” Safarik, now 21, said. “He helped me save up for my very first vehicle, helped me with my finances, showed me the ropes of growing up.”
CASA volunteers can also help reunite kids with their birth families, even when the odds seem stacked against them:
[CASA executive director Courtenay] Lanclos said being a CASA volunteer takes training and commitment, but for some the rewards are enormous. Tamarah and Mark Wales agree. They decided to team up to volunteer forCASA, and for three years they worked with one family, trying to reunite four children ranging from ages 5 to 16 who had been placed in foster care in different cities in and out of Lafayette Parish.
The children entered foster care due to their mother’s drug and alcohol problems, but the Wales made sure the children had the care they needed while helping the mother get treatment. Now that the mother is drug-free and working a good job, she and her children have been reunited.
The foster care system needs more results like this. As for Blake, he has this to say about where he’d be without hisCASA volunteer:
“Where would I be?” Safarik said. “I’d probably be in jail, honestly.”