"It's up to the CASA to make sure that the child is getting what they're entitled to," he said. "My goal is to ensure that everyone in this child's life is contributing to their welfare."

The CASA volunteers work with a child until their case is resolved or until they "age out" of the program. The majority of foster children are able to find a safe and permanent home through adoption before they reach the age of 21. Most current foster children are in their early teens.

"If they are in a family, they will be better off," Daddio said. "We want a decent educational and support system for them."

While volunteers don't have to be parents, it helps that they know how to tend to the needs of the young.


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Teresa Fernandez has plenty of experience in that area. The Perry Hall resident raised her five children, then added five more youngsters to her family when she became a child sponsor for Compassion International.

She has traveled to El Salvador, Tanzania and the Philippines to meet three of her children, and hopes to visit the others in the Dominican Republic and Colombia.

"I wanted to help children in the United States by becoming a CASA," Fernandez said. "A lot of these children live in poverty and are abused. I want to let them know that they can go on and do something positive with their lives. "

Fernandez believes that foster children need attention and love. That drove her to make an impact.

"Sometimes when you say the right thing at the right moment, it gives them the encouragement that they need," she said. "Kids remember things you say, and carry it with them for a long time."

Each of the new advocates had different reactions during the training and swearing-in ceremony. Kirby was "ready to roll," while Valeri was nervous.

"We all want to succeed for the child," Valeri said. "When I started the training, I thought there would be more mentoring. But you are advocating for the kids, and really getting to know their parents, their foster family, social workers, and teachers. We thoroughly research their situations and write reports before the court proceedings."

Fernandez, the only one of the three to receive her child's case file at the training, had a stronger reaction.

"After the supervisor showed me the file, I sat down and cried," she said. "Then, I prayed. It's a great opportunity to put this child first."

To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer, call 410-828-0515 or go to http://www.casabaltco.org.