The Kenaitze Indian Tribe is currently looking for volunteers to provide support for children in need.
Next week, the tribe will have two meetings to provide information to potential volunteers of its Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program.
The first meeting will be held at Kaladi Brothers Coffee on the Sterling Highway on March 18 at 12:00 p.m. Later that day, another opportunity to learn about the program will take place at the Dena’ina Wellness Center at 5:30 p.m.
The CASA program allows volunteers to advocate for children in abuse and neglect court cases.
“They get to know the children, they get to know the case and they represent their best interest in court,” said Joy Petrie, the CASA program coordinator for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe.
Volunteers are appointed to a case and see the children at least twice a month, Petrie said. Typically, she said, volunteers visit the children wherever they are staying, which is usually in a foster home.
“They’re the eyes and ears outside of the courtroom,” Petrie said.
She said the program has many benefits and that volunteers help encourage kids while improving their self-esteem.
“It’s just amazing to see the difference that volunteers can make in their life,” Petrie said.
While being a volunteer provides positive support, it requires a lot of dedication, Petrie said.
“To be a CASA volunteer, we do ask for a lot of commitment,” she said. “It’s a different kind of volunteer opportunity. What we don’t want to see is a volunteer just in and out of the life of kids.”
Petrie said volunteers are asked to commit at least two years to the program, and complete 40 hours of training.
While the CASA program started in other parts of the country during the 1970s, it wasn’t until 1984 that it was implemented in Alaska. According to its website, one out of seven Alaskan children in state custody are served by the program. While the Office of Public Advocacy organizes the program in other parts of the state, the Kenai chapter is operated by a partnership with the Kenaitze tribe.
Last year, the Kenaitze’s CASA program served 37 kids with 14 volunteers, Petrie said. Currently 23 kids are being served by eight volunteers. Petrie said that she hopes to get at least a half-dozen more volunteers.
“When you think about what kids deserve, they deserve someone there for them,” Petrie said. “[The volunteers] are showing kids that our community really cares for them.”
Reach Ian Foley at Ian.firstname.lastname@example.org