Sandoval Signpost
An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Schoolbag

Casa volunteers speak out for children, create stronger communities

—Betsy Model

Even as we hurtle towards mid-summer and children and parents alike are beginning to hunt for the perfect daypack, athletic shoe and notebook with which to start the new school year, thousands of children in New Mexico are facing change and new faces of a different kind.

On any given day some 2,000 New Mexico children are in foster care due to concerns of child abuse or neglect.  These youth, typically through no fault of their own, face not only the mix of new and familiar faces that come with the new semester but often a new school or school district altogether, with new faces in class, in their foster home and among the adults charged with seeing to their needs and welfare.   

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) programs in New Mexico see the vulnerability of these children every day.  As part of the National CASA Association, New Mexico CASA supports sixteen local CASA programs operating twenty-two offices around the state, including Sandoval County. 

CASA volunteers are adults willing to give of their time, their energy and their compassion to assist individual children or sibling groups who, while in foster care, sometimes feel they have no voice in the process that surrounds them.

Some children removed from their homes are fortunate to have other family members to turn to for care and a loving home.  Others go into foster homes, often separated from their siblings, their friends, their schools and their familiar support structure.  To those children, their CASA - appointed by the court to champion the child's needs and to report to all the parties in that child's case what those needs are - may be the most stable adult in their changing lives.

Studies show that children in foster care who have a CASA advocate have better communication with their families, are more likely to receive the medical and behavioral counseling that they need, have fewer behavioral problems in school and are less likely to be in foster care long-term or to re-enter foster care after their case closes. 

Highly trained volunteer advocates in most of the state's counties and in twelve of New Mexico's judicial districts donate hours of their time each month making sure that the children impacted by neglect and abuse receive the one-on-one attention, time and court representation necessary to have safe, healthy and productive lives. 

Trained CASA advocates are sworn officers of the court that gather information for the court and recommend to the judge what is needed to keep a child safe and what is in that child’s best interest. While other parties in the case are also concerned about the child, they have other children, other cases, and other interests. The CASA volunteer is the only person in the case whose sole concern is the best interest of their child.

Last year, some 868 CASA volunteers provided vital service to nearly 2100 children around the state but more volunteers are needed, including in Sandoval County.

CASA volunteers come from all cultures, professions, ethnic and educational backgrounds; they are ordinary citizens who are specially trained to serve as independent advocates for children involved in abuse and neglect cases.

Sandoval County CASA and the 13th Judicial District are currently seeking additional volunteers to serve the children of Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, Placitas and greater Sandoval County. 

Volunteers - who, following application, must pass an interview, provide references and pass a criminal background check with no felonies - will receive specialized training from professionals in the field for familiarization with child welfare services and the court systems as well as interviewing techniques, case review, child development and cultural sensitivity.  Of particular need are bilingual (Spanish) volunteers with strong English narrative writing skills for court reports and file documentation. 

More information about volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate within Sandoval County can be found online at www.casasandoval.org or by calling 505-720-7030.

More information about volunteering as a CASA in other areas of New Mexico can be found online at www.nmcasa.org.


Flying Star Café puts child abuse prevention on the menu

On July 17, Flying Star Café in Bernalillo and PB&J Family Services celebrated the first anniversary of a PB&J initiative that involves a PB&J sandwich and preventing child abuse. One year ago, the Bernalillo location added an organic PB&J sandwich on its menu and committed to donate $2 to PB&J Family Services for each one purchased.

The partnership between PB&J and Flying Star Café, featuring the PB&J sandwich promotion, was encouraged and has been supported by local guests of the Bernalillo location, as well as by the Civitan Clubs of the area, the Sandoval County Chamber of Commerce, and the Town of Bernalillo which has housed and supported PB&J at its location at 255 A Camino del Pueblo since 1983. “Partnerships such as the one between PB&J Family Services and Flying Star Café exemplify the positive benefits to community when private business supports the efforts of a local nonprofit,” says Mayor Jack Torres.

Flying Star Café donated 20% of the day’s proceeds to PB&J in honor of the celebration.  Together, all of those partners celebrated, and with PB&J sandwiches in hand, toasted to selling more sandwiches and raising more dollars for child abuse prevention in the coming year.

To learn more about PB&J, visit any of the Albuquerque/Bernalillo Flying Stars or Satellites and pick up a PB&J Family Services brochure. To seek help for a family in need or inquire about volunteering or donating directly to PB&J, contact PB&J: (505) 877-7060 (Albuquerque), (505) 867-2356 (Bernalillo) or on the web, www.pbjfamilyservices.org.


Teen night at the Placitas Community Library

August programs at Placitas Library

—Nora Timmons

The summer programs for children at the Placitas Library were well-attended and quite successful. We are planning to continue offering interesting, educational, and enjoyable programs for our youngest patrons this fall and winter as well.

The first program is on Saturday, August 13 from 11:00 a.m. until 12:30. “Children Caring for Dogs” will be presented by Ruth Davis, dog breeder and shower. Ms. Davis is a member of the Coronado Kennel Club of Sandoval County, an AKC registered canine ambassador, and a former school teacher. Her presentation will include two DVD’s entitled “Best Friends” and “Safety Around Dogs” with numerous tips on activities children can do with their dogs, how to successfully care for the family pet, and how to handle an encounter with a stray dog. Ms. Davis and two of her colleagues will bring three to four dogs for children to meet and pet. Handouts specifically geared towards children will be distributed. Don’t miss out on this informative and helpful program.

c. Geri Verble

African trade bead necklace, by Geri Verble

The second program will take place on Saturday, August 27 from 10:00 a.m. until noon with a favorite guest of the library, Geri Verble, owner and creator of Tribal Bear Designs. This program is part of our Summer Arts Program for children presented by Geri and her colleagues in the group “Creative Spirits of Placitas.” Geri is a very talented and creative local jewelry designer who wants to share her love of African trade beads. Her favorites are Batik Bone, Lost Wax Brass, Recycled Glass, and Sandcast Beads. She will show where in Africa these beads originate and demonstrate how they are made. Attendees can join in the fun of making an African necklace.

Teen game night begins at the library on August 26 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Ex Box 360 and Yu Gi Oh were a hit at the Library’s first game night. Teens are invited to play video, card or board games. The Library’s other teen programs are also attracting new sixth to twefth graders at every session, and are a great way for Placitas teens to meet each other. Chess Club meets August 6 at 1:00 p.m. and is lead by Aaron Koslow, a state ranked teen chess player who teaches the finer points of the game, and is happy to match wits with more experienced players of all ages. At the Teen Advisory Group (TAG) meetings, we discuss the books, movies, music and games the library is buying, and make suggestions for new purchases and programs, as well as eat snacks, play games, watch movies, and generally have fun. Join us at the next TAG meeting Saturday August 20 at 1:30 p.m. We are also looking for adults to help with all the teen programs. If you would like to make snacks, work with programs, or suggest new materials to buy, please contact Nancy Kellum-Rose, nancykrose@comcast.net, or stop by the Library any Wednesday 1:30 to 5:00 p.m. and talk to me.

As always our programs for children are free. Please go to our website at www.placitaslibrary.com to print a flyer or call the library at 867-3355 for more information. The library is located at 453 Hwy. 165 on the left side of the road before the Placitas Volunteer Fire Department. We welcome participation in our programs from residents of Bernalillo, Rio Rancho, Algodones, and all surrounding areas.

 

 

 

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