“I think there’s a common misconception that [child abuse] is a byproduct of growing up in a low socioeconomic status, and the truth is that like so many of our societal ills, child neglect does not discriminate, and it cuts across all races and socioeconomic levels.” Jessica Laspino explains. As one of the founders of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), she recruits, trains and supervises volunteers who are appointed by a judge to advocate for the best interest of a child or children in the foster care system. “These youths are the most vulnerable members of our society,” she said.
Jessica considers herself genuinely fortunate to have been one of the first founders of the organization, and felt that she was welcomed into the Lancaster community warmly. “I have found it to be incredibly philanthropic and embraced the mission of CASA by volunteering and donating to see our mission succeed and expand,” she said.
Jessica oversees about 150 advocates from all walks of life, some retired educational and medical professionals, former legal professionals, or even people who don’t have experience in a field that would immediately relate, but love children and want to see them in a safe home. Each advocate has to go through a 35-hour training program, and then work with the program staff throughout the course of their tenure. Mostly, Jessica looks for individuals who believe every child deserves to grow up in a safe and loving home, and who are excellent communicators. They also must have a certain degree of flexibility in their schedule.
“Where CASA steps in is that they become a consistent and compassionate adult in a child’s life whose life is in a state of flux, and they remain consistent throughout their entire tenure through foster care… they become that constant in that child’s life, and they help to advocate in court and behind the scenes that the things that that child may need,” Jessica explains.
Despite the situations that she is exposed to throughout this work, Jessica finds that she feels more hope and inspiration than anything else. “I’ve learned that there are so many incredible people in this community who are willing to step up and give a tremendous amount of their time and energy to advocate for a child in need,” she said. “At the risk of sounding cliché, I certainly learn something new every single day, and I am grateful for that.”
By: Brianna Wiest