BALTIMORE– Last month, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Baltimore, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring abused and neglected children reach safe, permanent and loving homes welcomed ten new child advocates.
The following individuals were welcomed into the program during a ceremony at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center (BCJJC) led by the honorable Judge Robert Kershaw, Associate Judge of the Baltimore City Circuit Court:
Kelley Blum of Lutherville
Denise Dorsey-Brown of Clarksville
Beth Gantt of Roland Park
Chelsea Gray of Hamilton
Shawnice Jackson of Middle River
Leonardo Knight of Charles North
Laura Pohl of Charles Village
Yero Umoga of Gwynn Oak
Patrick Whang of Charles Village
Mike Zellhofer of Waltherson
CASA volunteers work one-on-one with an abused or neglected child, advocating for his or her best interests. Essentially, CASA volunteers “speak up” for these children in the court and child welfare systems, making sure they are safe and well-cared for, are getting the services they need, and spend the least amount of time possible in foster care.
“Our volunteers don’t require any specific educational or professional background. All they need is compassion, objectivity, and a commitment to children,” said Nancy Blackwell, executive director of CASA of Baltimore, Inc. “CASAs come from all walks of life, and diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. They are ordinary individuals who rise to the extraordinary by making a difference in the lives of children.”
“I chose to become a CASA simply because I wanted to help children in need,” said Pohl, a professional photographer who heard about the organization on a first date with her soon-to-be husband, a CASA volunteer in Fairfax, VA at the time. “Hearing him talk about volunteering with CASA intrigued me, and after learning more, I knew it would be a great way for me to help make a difference!”
Currently seeking her Masters in Social Work at the University of Maryland, Gray became a CASA to provide a sense of stability for youth in foster care. “I know how many times the places these children live and the people involved in their lives changes, so it’s important for them to have a stable adult to look out for their best interests. It may be challenging at times, but I look forward to looking out for what is best for an abused or neglected child,” she said.
CASA of Baltimore accepts volunteer applications year-round from individuals interested in speaking up for abused and neglected children. For more information about volunteering, call 410-244-1465 or visit www.casabalt.org.
About CASA of Baltimore Inc.
Founded in 1988, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Baltimore, Inc. serves abused and neglected children by representing their voices in the Baltimore City court system and advocating for their best interests in the judicial, educational, medical and social service communities.
The non-profit recruits, trains and supervises CASAs to provide written, objective recommendations to the Court; to serve as a consistent adult presence, and to monitor that child’s well-being. As advocates, the volunteers ensure that their assigned child’s best interests are heard and understood by the Court. CASA volunteers aid in the transition from the foster care system to a safe permanent home, giving hope and support to Baltimore’s children. For more information, visit www.casabalt.org; outside Baltimore, visit www.marylandcasa.org.
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