Since 1991, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) has served thousands of children who entered foster care due to abuse or neglect from their biological families. As of today, there are over 150 CASA volunteers who, remarkably, give freely of their time and talents to help the vulnerable child through this difficult period. For the superlative work by staff and volunteers alike, Chatham County/Savannah CASA has been honored as Best CASA in Georgia.
Our Dream – Tackle the Glaring Gap in Service:
Supervised visitation is a mid-way step in the foster care process that is ordered by the Courts to begin reunification between the biological family and their child. During the months, and sometimes years, a child is in foster care, research has demonstrated that parents and children benefit from quality time to “start-over” and learn new skills as a family. This is crucial to strengthening parent-child attachments and decreasing the child’s sense of abandonment. Family visitation time is linked to improving a child’s well-being such as spending less time in out-of-home care and faster reunification with the biological parents.
Sadly, Chatham County has one of the largest populations of children in foster care outside of Greater Atlanta. In 2021, there were 102 children entering foster care and an average daily number of 360 children (!), a number comprising all children still in care over multiple years. Though recognized as crucial to family-child success, Chatham County had no Visitation Center. But with vision, inspiration, devotion, and dogged fundraising, the CASA team opened The Bright House on February 14, 2022, and actualized this dream. Chatham County has its first Family Visitation Center.
Now the Hard Work
A child coming into foster care is often the vulnerable recipient of deep-seated generational trauma. The causes may be a parent’s mental health instability, stressors due to poverty, or multiple factors combined, at times expressed by substance use. The Bright House’s goal is to help parents start to confront the underlying causes of family dysfunction and begin to heal so that their child can return home. This is hard, uphill work on the part of the parents, the child, and the professional team of The Bright House. Typically, approximately 50 percent of the children who enter foster care in Chatham County are reunified with their parents. The Bright House team hopes to raise this percentage and achieve the ideal outcome for more and more children – reunification with the biological family.
Since opening our doors, The Bright House has already served over 40 family members and completed 44 supervised visits. We strongly believe – and research verifies - that this one-on-one support increases the chance that families are reunited. In our safe and warm environment, families begin to create new memories and rebuild trust and bonds.
Our Community Came Together:
Thank you to all our dedicated stakeholders, volunteers, and families for trusting us to close this service gap in the foster care system. As we know from years of successful CASA work, our supportive community is motivated by the deeply held beliefs that children are our future and deserve their best shot to succeed in life. This year, CASA evolved to be Brightside Child and Family Advocacy. We stand poised to make a new and significant contribution to the well-being of children and their families.
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