Our fearless Program Director, Sheryl Thierry and rock star Volunteer Mentor, Dawn Montgomery were recently welcomed on KXRW’s The Common Good, in which they showcase the collective achievements that contribute to a positive and well informed community. Host Joe Clemens started by introducing our program as “a volunteer powered network of people from all walks of life who believe society has a fundamental obligation to help children in need” – we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
“Our job is to discover what that child needs to be successful in foster care,” Program Director, Sheryl Thierry.
Sheryl began by giving a history of our program explaining we have been partnered with YWCA Clark County since almost its conception because there is a very strong connection between the mission of both organizations. Our volunteers are independent advocates for children that come into the care of the state. We are not social workers. We are absolutely independent and our job is to discover what that child needs to be successful in foster care and hopefully reunify with their parent, if not able to do that safely then we find a safe and permanent home for that child as quickly as possible. We focus on the best interest of the child and that’s what we tell the court. Our job is to make recommendations based on the best interest of the child.
After hearing a history of our program Joe asked Dawn to share a bit about what our operations look like in the realm of COVID. Dawn explains that every 30 days our volunteers are used to seeing their kids and checking in with them but because of the pandemic we had to curtail face to face visit in the foster home or the relative’s home or wherever the child is placed. Now that children and advocates are using video calls there is less privacy which leads to children not feeling as comfortable sharing things that are really troubling them. That together with the attention span of kids makes a real challenge to get a quality visit and the type of visit we were used to having with our kids. But the bigger issue is that fewer people are seeing children and so kids experiencing abuse have flown under the radar.
“There are fewer calls coming into hotlines around the country, the severity of the abuse once the children come to the attention of the authorities, usually be law enforcement or emergency rooms, that abuse has become exasperated and the injuries are greater.”
Dawn continues by explaining that the fear is the potential of a flood of kids coming into care after they’re back in school and how that will stretch resources very thin and overwhelm the system. All age appropriate children who are in care and custody of the state should have a voice in court and to have representation in court and that’s what we do, especially now.
Right now we’re looking to expand our volunteer base to communities of color so we better mirror the children that we serve.
Ready to jump in and help? You’re likely just what we’re looking for. Sheryl describes our ideal volunteer as someone who is community minded and has a devotion to children and supporting both children and families. We like community members with different backgrounds both professionally and personally because it’s what brings a unique perspective to the job. Because it takes a typical case two years to resolve we ask for that commitment from our volunteers, someone who is committed and is in a position to stick with it. We also want to ensure that applicants are available and present for our extensive training which amounts to 50 hours over the course of 4 to 6 weeks. Right now we’re looking to expand our volunteer base to communities of color so we better mirror the children that we serve. We really want to pay attention to the demographics of the children and make sure that we can provide perhaps a Spanish speaking advocate if we have a Spanish speaking child for instance. So we’re really trying to reach out to those communities to pull in volunteers who can help us with the children of color who come into care.
All of this just outlines the formalities of what we do. Are you interested in hearing about the cases we work on and the real children and families involved? Stay tuned for our next post or listen to the full broadcast.