A former foster child who was told she wouldn’t amount to anything testified in support of increased public funding for a nonprofit that helped turn her life around – Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/Prince George’s County.
“Being in foster care was not easy,” Victoria said in appearing before the Prince George’s County Council at a packed hearing on Monday night. “Going from foster home to foster home, feeling unloved and unwanted.”
“I was even told I would never be anything,” Victoria said. “But I proved them wrong. I’m now in my third year of college” at Bowie State, preparing for her career. “Without CASA and Ms. Charlean, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today,” she said.
Charlean, Victoria’s CASA volunteer, along with a second CASA volunteer, Elaine, and Ann Marie Binsner, Executive Director of CASA/Prince George’s County, also testified in support of the nonprofit’s request for $100,000 for the next fiscal year, up from $75,000. Overall, the council heard from scores of groups and speakers on their respective funding proposals.
CASA/Prince George’s County is part of a network of nearly 1,000 nonprofits nationwide that recruit, train and supervise CASA volunteers who serve as a voice for foster children by advocating for their medical, emotional, educational and housing needs.
CASA/Prince George’s County generally provides one volunteer per foster child. It now has enough for about a third of the county’s more than 500 foster children. Its goal is to eventually have a CASA volunteer for every foster child, noting that those with a CASA do far better than those without one.
Standing before the council, Binsner said: “support from the County Council has allowed CASA to grow and improve outcomes for some of our county’s most vulnerable youth- abused and neglected children living in foster care.”
Charlean explained that she served as Victoria’s CASA volunteer for six years, ending when the young woman turned 21 in September and aged out of foster care. “I was devoted and determined to make sure she had what she needed,” Charlean told the council. “I believed in her.”
Elaine, a CASA volunteer for three years, said her foster youth faced numerous challenges after bouncing in and out of 11 foster homes in four years. But now that she has Elaine by her side, she knows she has someone to turn to. However, Elaine said, her youth’s brother, “who desperately needs and wants a CASA, is spiraling down.” Unfortunately, she said, “We don’t have the resources and volunteers for him.”
Looking ahead, Elaine told the council, “This critical funding that CASA is seeking will help give children the voice they need to ensure they receive the services that will put them on the path toward becoming productive citizens.”