THE BLOG
03/07/2011 03:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

With Cash Strapped Budgets, the Need for Child Advocate Volunteers Is Greater Than Ever

A few weeks ago, I posted a film of Brandon, the first child in my feature profiling kids in foster care who are available for adoption. The comments from readers were remarkable and incredibly positive. I appreciate all of your input. I am very encouraged and hopeful that Brandon will soon be matched with an adoptive family.

Some readers expressed great interest in helping kids in foster care but were not quite ready to adopt. One of the comments came from a man who is a guardian ad-Litem. I want to explain to you guys what that is because it just might be up your alley to be one too. There is a GAL (guardian ad-Litem) or CASA program in almost every state. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. These are volunteers, ordinary citizens who are trained to advocate for the best interests of a child in court and in the community.

Because there are so many kids in the child welfare system, particularly in large cities like Los Angeles, social workers' caseloads are often significantly higher than the 12-15 children that is the standard. It's really difficult for them to give each child the attention they need. A CASA advocates for only one or two children at a time. If a child is lucky enough to be assigned a CASA that person will serve as the "eyes and ears" for that child in court. CASA volunteers assist judges by gathering information about the welfare and needs of their young clients, and communicating their best interests to the court, then following up to assure that court orders are fulfilled.

It is not the same as being a "big sister" or "big brother." Family court judges typically assign CASA volunteers their most difficult, complex cases. It is fascinating and rewarding work. A cross between being a lawyer and a private investigator. CASAs have access to the Department of Social Services, court, school, medical/therapy records and other evidence pertinent to the case. They are allowed to interview family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. They may be called as witnesses, may testify on behalf of their clients, and in general, be the voice of a person too young to speak for themselves.

Because of state budget cuts, many CASA programs across the country have lost state funding. They need all the help they can get from volunteers and donors. To find out more about a CASA program in your area go to CASANet.org

Today, I'm posting a film about a boy we met when I first began this project with the Children's Action Network to create films of children in foster care. We have made about 40 films over the last year and a half. Of the children in these pieces, some have been adopted by extended family members, some by their foster parents, and some are exploring potential matches. This is an ongoing project, so I will be introducing you to new children with each post.

Today please meet Deon.

Deon was 14 years old when we met him. He has a large personality and though it takes him a while to open up to people, put him in a room with other kids or big groups and he becomes a social butterfly. Deon likes being active. He loves to skateboard and is a video game wiz.

You can learn more about the children and find more information about foster care at "http://www.childrensactionnetwork.org or by calling 1-800-525-6789.