Petula Gomillion is looking for local volunteers with big hearts and a passion to serve foster children.
Gomillion, executive director of Atlantic Area CASA, said her agency can use more help in Bryan County, now the second largest in terms of population in the six-county Atlantic Judicial Circuit consisting of Bryan, Evans, Liberty, Long, McIntosh and Tattnall counties. The numbers show why.
“Currently we have four designated volunteers for Bryan County and no, that is not enough to serve all the children in foster care in Bryan County,” said Gomillion, who has been head of the volunteer organization for a decade now. “Right now there are 35 (Bryan County) children in care. The most we are allowed to assign a CASA volunteer is two cases, which could include multiple children in that one case.”
Adding to the difficulty in Bryan County is the distance in North Bryan from services, said Gomillion, who recently spoke to a meeting of the various organizations that make up Bryan County Family Connection about CASA - an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocates.
She said CASA volunteers are appointed by a juvenile judge to serve as advocates for children while they’re in the foster care system, and right now there are only 28 such volunteers to serve the entire Atlantic Judicial Circuit.
Gomillion, who worked as a supervisor and director for Department of Family and Children’s Services in Wayne, Liberty and Long counties, said she got “more involved in supporting Atlantic Area CASA under the leadership of (former Liberty DFCS Director Irene McCall.”
Working with foster kids through CASA means getting involved in a child’s life outside the system as well, with volunteers often attending extra-curricular activities. And Gomillion said CASA supports other organizations that work with children in a range of areas, from “direct staff involvement to financial support for back to school drives and Christmas gifts for a needy family, just to name a few.”
Potential volunteers have to undergo a criminal background check, as well as a screening by Child Protective Services and a check to ensure they’re not on the sexual offender registry, then commit to a minimum obligation of one year.
That’s followed by 5-1/2 weeks of online training “with a face to face interaction between CASA volunteer coordinators and attending court observation,” Gomillion said.
Once selected and appointed a case, CASA volunteers meet with a DFCS case manager and then meet monthly with the foster child in the child’s foster home setting.
It’s a commitment, Gomillion said.
“The No. 1 quality to be a CASA volunteer is to be passionate about the care of children in foster care and have a willingness to serve and advocate for those children,” she said. “For those that want to support us without becoming a volunteer, we are always looking for donations of school supplies, new tems of clothing, gifts or gift cards to support birthdays and Christmas gifts for the children and gas cards for our CASA Volunteers. And most of all a financial contribution or donation to CASA is tax deductible. We are a 501 c3 non profit organization that is recognized by the state of Georgia as a charitable organization through the Secretary of State. The community can support our annual signature fundraiser CASA’s Dancing with the Stars of the Coastal Empire by becoming a CASA Star, a business sponsor or an individual supporter and attendee.”
For more information about CASA visit www.atlanticcasa.or