Did you know that there are hundreds of thousands of kids across our country that need an advocate? No matter where you live, I guarantee in your backyard there are hundreds of kids that need help. They need a warm bed. They need a hug. They need love. If you’re an upstanding citizen with a big heart, maybe becoming a child advocate is the hobby for you. Volunteer opportunities with kids abound! No question about it, it will be the most rewarding hobby you could chose!
Here are 6 ways you can get involved.
Volunteer at DHR
The Department of Human Resources, some states call it the Department of Human Services (DHS) is the government agency responsible for helping these children. They are overworked and underpaid. Consider taking them breakfast or buying the social workers a cup of coffee. These workers see the absolute worst of the human race everyday. Anything you can do to show them appreciation will go a long way.
Did you know DHR/DHS must shuttle kids from their foster parents to the biological parents for weekly visits? This is generally a volunteer position. If you have reliable transportation, valid insurance, you qualify. Spend an hour a week making sure these kids stay safe and have a familiar face that shows up week after week.
Befriend a Foster Parent
Fostering a child is not for everyone. That doesn’t mean you can’t help them out. Take a foster parent a dinner or order them a pizza. Maybe just a cup of coffee. Or lend foster mom an ear. You never know how much such a small gesture is appreciated when you have a home full of kids. You never know, this may open up a bigger child advocacy opportunity.
Court Appointed Advocates
There are, of course, all kinds of ways to become an advocate for children; one of the greatest ways is by becoming a CASA volunteer. CASA stands for court-appointed special advocate, and it’s a program designed to empower children who have been victims of abuse or neglect by providing one-on-one assistance through court-appointed volunteers (also called special advocates). Some states also have what are call court-appointed Juvenal Advocates (CAJA).
So what exactly does all of this mean?
CASA was established in 1977 when Seattle judge David Soukup expressed concern about making decisions on abused and neglected children’s court cases when he didn’t have enough information. David thought it would be beneficial to appoint community volunteers to speak on behalf of those children; and it was. He requested volunteers and 50 citizens responded. Since then, CASA has nearly 60,000 advocates and has helped more than 2 million children.
By becoming an advocate! As an advocate, you work directly one 1 child’s case at a time. This is the wonderful thing about a program like CASA. You’re not swamped with several cases like lawyers are; you get to focus on 1 case–one child’s life. Now for the nitty gritty details:
- Search for your local CASA program and contact them directly
- Complete a 30-hour training course & background check
- Take on your first case as an advocate. You will be asked to dedicate approximately 10 hours per month. Most cases last about 1 1/2 years.
For more details on the duties of a child advocate, see CASA’s Top 10 Commitment List.
Big Brother Big Sister
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is just one more program that will allow you to start advocating on the behalf of children right now. These kids are often in broken homes, where they are raised on the streets by a parent just barely scraping by. Providing these kids with a warm meal once a week or month, helping them understand the value of hard work and education may be all they need to break the cycle that is part of their story.
Foster a child
Whether you’re single or married, retired or working, young or old you can foster. In our county here in Alabama, there are 25 kids that come into state care every month. Each of those kids end up in a foster home for some length of time. Have a spare bedroom? Have a spare bed? You’re qualified. With 30 hours of training and home study, you can begin your foster care journey. It’s one of the best volunteer opportunities to help with kids. Obviously, foster care isn’t for everyone, but doing your part to take care of those less fortunate can be extremely rewarding.
Adopt a child
Adoption is the ultimate in child advocacy. Giving a kid a family for the rest of their life is no small decision, but as I’ve said before – there is no hobby more rewarding. If you jump into the foster care journey you may find yourself faced with adoption. Perhaps you already know you want to adopt. DHR/DHS does their due diligence to ensure you’re a safe parent/family but aside from that, its a relatively simple process to get setup as an adoptive resource.
I hope you’ve found a few volunteer opportunities with kids that you’re considering as a new hobby.