Joy Gross is dedicated when it comes to helping those voiceless as a CASA volunteer.
“CASA stands for court-appointed special advocate. And a CASA volunteer is an individual who goes through many hours of training, and then is appointed by the judge to be an advocate for children,” Gross said.
She has handled nine cases and advocated for 24 children over the past 10 years.
“You do all kinds of things. Co-ordinate meetings, we pull together all kinds of information, we write a report to the judge, so the judge can make an informed decision about what is in the best interests of the child. My very first was Emily,” Gross said.
Emily was 8 years old.
“Emily was just a peach. She was just wonderful to advocate for. Emily knew exactly what she wanted, and she wasn’t afraid to tell you I want this as my forever home,” Gross said.
Emily’s wish came true. The now 18-year-old is a Kesler and still connected to the volunteer who valued her.
“Joy was kind of my voice in the courtroom, but not only that she just made sure I was okay in school and just cared about me as a child in general. She was like taking an extra step and just making sure she understood me and I understood her, and she’s really close with me,” Kesler said.
Emily urges others to become CASA volunteers.
“We certainly have a continuing need because we have almost four hundred children in foster care,”
Lori Serratelli said.
Serratelli is the President of Dauphin County’s newly started program and says more is searching for more volunteers and donations.
“So that the need for funding is as severe as the need for volunteers. The more funding we have, the more staff we can hire, who can then supervise the volunteers.” Serratelli said.
CASA children are more than any others when they are in foster care, are more likely to graduate from high school, to go beyond high school, Gross said. Kesler is heading to Bloomsburg University in the Fall.
“Ten years of being adopted. And honestly, I found my forever family, they, it’s like I’ve been there my whole life, there’s no hesitation like I say they’re my mom they’re my dad, and yeah I fit right in, I look like my family,” Kesler said.