The system is overwhelmed – perhaps even broken.

We hear this line repeated, and we hear sad stories about our community’s children shuffling through a maze-like foster care program. The issue is even more pressing in Oregon, a state dealing with a growing child abuse problem, overbooked case workers and revolving-door foster homes.

One way of cutting through this tangle is the CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) program. These advocates are judge-appointed volunteers who help children through the foster care system as quickly and safely as possible.

CASA for Children of Multnomah, Washington & Columbia Counties is one branch of a national nonprofit organization with more than 900 programs in 49 states. The program was launched in 1985 and is now one of the largest in the nation. This branch of CASA volunteers has helped 16,000 children find permanent homes since its founding.

As citizen volunteers, CASA advocates are both inside and outside of the system. They have unique access to the foster children they’re assigned to, and can connect with parents, caseworkers, doctors, teachers and therapists. Their primary job is to protect, support, guide and represent foster children while moving them out of the system and into a safe and loving home.

CASA for Children of Multnomah, Washington & Columbia Counties was featured this week on as part of our award-winning Community Voices series. Below are interviews featuring key members of the organization.