'I really think people should give it a shot': CASAs share benefit of volunteering together

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Each year, El Paso County gets about 17,000 reports of child abuse.

That’s the highest number of calls out of the entire state, according to CASA of the Pikes Peak Region.

CASA stands for court appointed special advocates. CASAs are volunteers who represent children in court when they’ve been removed from their homes.

“If you have a heart for children, I just can’t tell you what joy this will bring to your heart,” said Kaia Sailor, who has volunteered with CASA for about two years.

Sailor is a preschool teacher and said she knew she wanted to do more to help children.

“To be that person for that child, to have them light up when you come in the room because they trust you and they know that you are there for them, it’s just a feeling that you just can’t believe how wonderful it is,” Sailor said.

According to CASA of the Pikes Peak Region, at any given time, about 900 children in El Paso and Teller counties are in need of an advocate. But there aren’t enough volunteers to help every child.

Last year, advocates were assigned to 710 children. The goal this year is to help 785 children. By 2020, CASA hopes to help every child in need.

“There are so many helpers at CASA. If you can’t be at court, if you’re having trouble getting to visits, there are a lot of people in CASA that are there to help you,” Sailor said. “That, for me, was something that I worried about, and it’s not a worry. It’s not a worry. You have a lot of helpers.”

Another big help for Sailor is that she volunteers with her daughter, Lindie Eads.

“When we go to homes, sometimes we take in a lot of information, and it’s really nice to have four ears instead of two when we get back to our car and try to write things down so we don’t forget important information,” Sailor said

Eads told 11 News she’s not sure she would have volunteered alone but said it’s been a great experience being a co-CASA with her mom.

“I would say it’s given us a different aspect of our relationship, honestly,” Eads said. “I would definitely say our bond has definitely grown over the couple years we’ve been doing this.”

Out of the roughly 300 volunteers CASA has, the group said there are only a handful of teams that work together. Everyone else volunteers on their own. Both Eads and Sailor encourage others to consider working together.

“Because of confidentiality, you can’t talk to anyone else about the case,” Eads said. “So it’s really, really great to have another person to chat with about things.”

Sailor agreed.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “I can think of so many times when my husband’s standing there and I would have ... and you can’t. So it’s just so wonderful.”

CASA volunteers get to know the child and the people around them: caregivers, parents, doctors, etc. The volunteers then write reports for a judge so that judge can make the best decision for the child’s future.

CASA said cases can last 12-18 months, and volunteers only get one case at a time.

“We can give all of our energy to that one case, to that one child or to those few children, if it’s more than one child in a home,” Sailor said

Most of the time, volunteer teams will be assigned to cases with multiple children.

While Eads and Sailor said their goal in signing up was to work together, they said it also helps to have a partner when one of them is busy.

“It is nice to have a back up, honestly. We both have jobs, and so court and meetings can conflict with that sometimes,” Eads said. “So if one of us can’t go, the other one just goes. We do prefer to do things together because it’s better and nicer to have somebody else with you, but in the event that I can’t make it to court, my mom goes. So that kind of thing is really nice.”

For anyone interested in volunteering, there is an information session on Monday from noon to 1 p.m. It will be held at CASA at 418 South Weber Street. People are asked to RSVP online.