WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — “Children are in sometimes very dire situations and they need a voice and that’s what my role would be,” Alec Frank, a newly appointed CASA, said.
Wednesday was a special day for 17 volunteers. Court Appointed Special Advocates of Luzerne County — or CASA– held a swearing-in ceremony for their largest class to date. The non-profit’s mission is to train volunteers from the community to advocate for the best interest of children who have been removed from their homes and into alternative care.
“Many of these children suffer such trauma not only because of their abuse and neglect, but from the mere removal from their own home. So the research also suggests that when you have one trust-committed adult in a child’s life, it helps alleviate that trauma,” John Aciukewicz, Executive Director of CASA of Luzerne County, said.
“There are a lot of people that claim to be on the side of a child that may not really have their best interest in mind. And it’s my job to kind of sort out what is in the best interest in that child. And where should they be,” Frank said.
Advocates spend quality time with the child they’re assigned to, whether it’s going to a hockey game, or helping them with their homework. They also observe the child’s parents, talk to school teachers and therapists, and review the child’s records.
They’ll report their findings to a judge. All this helps determine whether that child will benefit from remaining at their home or enter foster care or be adopted. Alec Frank says he first learned about CASA through his wife, who is also a CASA.
“And seeing her do the work inspired me to do the work as well,” Frank said.
Directors say there are over 500 children in foster care in Luzerne County alone.
“With us being able to provide say 90 – 100 children we’re touching about 20 percent of that population. So we do definitely want to increase the number of advocates,” Aciukewicz said.
“I just think it’s more important that more people consider becoming a CASA,” Frank said.