Lights of hope will shine brightly Tuesday night in honor of the 60 children that came into foster care in the last year in Webster Parish for the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Light of Hope ceremony.
The public is urged to attend the ceremony which will be held Tuesday, April 2 at 5:30 p.m. on the steps of the Webster Parish Courthouse.
The ceremony will be in an effort to shine a light of hope for each child that continues to wait for a permanent home in the foster system and also shine light on the need for CASA volunteers and foster parents, in addition to educating the public about the sensitive job that the judges of Webster Parish and the Department of Social Services does on a daily basis.
Judge Jeff Cox, 26th Judicial District Court, will be the guest speaker.
"Our judges care and see the benefits of CASA in the parishes and because of them we get to have our program in their courtroom," said Sandra Samuel CASA Supervisor. "Also, the Department of Children and Family Services do not like to remove children from their homes, but want to protect them. It's not about proving that parents are unfit, but it's about educating and training the parents and placing the children in a safe and permanent home, whether that is with the parents or an alternate plan."
There were 595 children in care from the six parishes, with 60 children being from Webster Parish.
"We are trying to bring awareness to the community that this is at their backdoor and for the community to understand the need of CASA volunteers and foster parents," Samuel said.
She continued, explaining that it is helpful to have an extra set of eyes and ears on a case.
The Webster Parish (Minden) office currently serves 38 foster children from birth to 17 years of age that have suffered neglect, drug abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or physical abuse. Of the 19 cases served, 10 cases are without CASA volunteers.
The need for CASA volunteers is a continuous vital part of the foster care system, Samuel said.
"CASA volunteers advocate for their foster child(ren) and can reduce the amount of time that they spend in care, in addition to making sure that they receive important counseling and special services tailored to the needs of the child," she said. "CASA volunteers may not get a monetary paycheck, but the reward is in the help and happiness that the child receives.
"Being removed from their home is very traumatic for the child in addition to the trauma that they may have experienced while in the home," Samuel continued. "The importance for the need of warm, loving foster parents is crucial in the healing process of the children removed. The home can help the child to heal both emotionally and physically."
Training classes to become a CASA volunteer are ongoing and can be accommodated to the volunteer, depending on their location and schedule.
If you are interested in becoming a CASA volunteer, please contact Samuel at 371-0722. For more information on becoming a foster parent, call DCFS at 371-3004.