Volunteer Jerry Thigpen has seen firsthand the need for strong male role models. Jerry has been a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for over 4 years and was initially assigned to just one of the twins in a family that came into the system due to severe abuse. His brother was assigned to a female CASA who was dedicated and well-intentioned but unable to understand some of his unique needs. He specifically requested to be reassigned to Jerry who is now working hard to not only make sure each young man is having his individual needs met; but also transports them for visits no matter where they are placed, so the brothers can visit one another. He takes them to various local organizations to perform community service and exposes them to cultural and sporting events, expanding their worldview and opening their minds to the possibilities that life can bring.
Thigpen is proud of his decision to become a CASA and affirms, “these children are deserving of our time, compassion, love and understanding,”
The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) draws the connection between the trauma and upheaval youth in foster care experience and the potential for negative outcomes in their adult life. According to the CWLA, youth transitioning out of foster care are “at a higher risk for unemployment, poor educational outcomes, health issues, early parenthood, long-term dependency on public assistance, increased rates of incarceration, and homelessness.”
“Without a positive role model and someone advocating for them to get the help they need while they are in care, these kids have the odds stacked against them,” says Ann Marie Binsner. That’s why CASA is working to recruit more men to work with these youth. While men and women are equally capable of advocating for abused and neglected children, there are some issues that boys and young men will naturally feel more comfortable discussing with a male CASA. In 2010, GRAMMY Award winning recording artist Anthony Hamilton became a national spokesperson for CASA to help in the effort to recruit male volunteers. “Our boys need positive role models,” noted Hamilton. “Becoming a part of CASA will provide me with an opportunity to reach out to those men who can become everyday heroes to these children, and help change their life of hurt, into one of hope.”
“If you are for the children, if you are for a brighter future for our community, then join the 10%,” challenges Thigpen, “With your help, I know we can do better.”
To volunteer with CASA, call 301-209-0491 or go to www.pgcasa.org.