Central Georgia CASA aims for bigger impact

More than $800,000 in funding was awarded to 25 nonprofit and faith-based organizations by the Community Foundation of Central Georgia in partnership with Macon-Bibb County in the form of Macon Violence Prevention grants. These grants are a part of ongoing efforts to prevent violent crime in Macon-Bibb County. One of those organizations was Central Georgia Court Appointed Special Advocates, or “CASA.” The CASA organization provides volunteer advocates for children who are placed in foster care due to abuse and neglect.

Susanna Patterson, the executive director of Central Georgia CASA, says that their organization plans to use the $25,000 they were awarded by Macon Violence Prevention to further their goal of serving 100% of the children in their three-county foster care system, targeting volunteers willing to help with teenagers 12 and older.

“Hitting that mark of serving 50% of your kids in foster care is a big deal. When you can get there, you really start to see a bigger impact, and kind of a system-wide impact. When we hit that earlier this year, I think early spring, maybe March or April, that was a big deal for me. You know, I’ve spent the last nine years climbing that mountain.”

“I think the biggest thing right now is just continuing to kind of climb that mountain to serve every child in our foster care system, my goal has always been 100%.”

Susanna emphasizes the need for volunteers who can work with foster care children ages 12 and older because their needs tend to be greater than those of younger children.

“They’ve been in potentially abusive, traumatic environments for longer so they potentially need additional services. They’ve potentially had longer periods of educational needs or medical needs that haven’t been met, so they need additional attention there,” she says.

In addition to increasing marketing and support with their grant, Central Georgia CASA also plans to use their funds to provide training for puzzle volunteers in their Independent Living program, which is targeted towards fulfilling the needs of these foster care teenagers.

Puzzle volunteers help teenagers access the benefits available to them by teaching them to ask questions that further their chance of receiving aid. Susanna describes this process as teaching kids to “be the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.” The goal of these volunteers is to set teenagers up for success as they prepare to enter adulthood.

Susanna originally came to Macon for law school and stayed when she fell in love with the city’s community. Her heart for foster care grew out of her decision to be a foster parent before she was familiar with Central Georgia CASA. She now has four adopted children, all of whom she originally planned to just foster.

“I always say God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called,” Susanna says. “I had never parented anyone before. So it was a little bit like ‘what am I doing right now?’ Kind of like drinking from a firehose. But it was great.”

There are many ways to be an advocate for the foster care system and community. To support and learn more about Central Georgia CASA, visit their website at https://www.cgcasa.org/ or contact Susanna Patterson at [email protected].