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Casa Seeks More Volunteers

POLK COUNTY – Volunteers are the backbone of Casa of Polk County and the foster child advocacy group is looking for more to join its ranks.

Join the Casa team

What: Casa volunteer training orientation.

When: March 4 at 5 p.m.

Where: Polk County Courthouse conference room, 850 Main St., Dallas.

For more information: 503-623-8473.

Casa (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) is holding its volunteer orientation on March 4 at the Polk County Courthouse conference room, 850 Main St., Dallas, from 5 to 6 p.m.

Orientation introduces potential volunteers to what the program does before the required 10-week training class begins March 18.

Director Katey Axtell is hoping to graduate 12 “casas” from the class, which will keep the volunteer levels steady and the case load of each one manageable.

“We are finding that with the increase of the kids and keeping the casas at a level of one or two cases… we have to keep it at 12 coming in,” Axtell said.

Casa pairs trained volunteers with abused and neglected children who have been removed from their homes. The volunteers advocate on behalf of children as they move through the court system.

It’s not easy work, said Mike Barnett, assistant director, but that shouldn’t stop people from attending orientation.

“We would love to have a full class,” he said. “Anyone who is interested in finding out more about the program, come to the orientation to see if it’s for them.”

Axtell said there are more ways to contribute to the program, including helping coordinate events, writing grants, working in the office and serving on the board of directors. To meet national standards, the organization need more board members who are not advocates, she added.

Polk County’s program has grown substantially since 2013 and now has a new office in Dallas and 54 casas. It will host new fundraisers this year, Casa Superhero Race in partnership with Casa of Marion County on April 9 and a golf tournament later in the year.

Later this year, Casa will be participating in “Fostering the Future,” a national program that has trained mentors working with teens in the foster care system to prepare them for adulthood. In May, the program will co-host a “trauma-informed care” seminar, which teaches casas to use information about a child’s family history to better understand their behavior and help them.

Also, Polk County Casa has teamed up with the Willamette Valley Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse or Baca. Similar to Casa, the group advocates for foster children, using their motorcycles and “tough guy” personas to make foster children feel secure and supported.

“They’re about protecting the child and empowering the child, making the child feel safe,” Barnett said. “These guys are for real.”

Axtell said the organization’s goal is to have a casa for every child by 2018. She said to achieve that, the program would need to grow even more – to about 80 volunteers.

With the help of the community, it on pace to achieve that goal.

“We’ve come a long way and it’s not any one person,” Barnett said. “It’s a team effort.”

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