By CASEY CHAFFIN
Keizertimes Intern

Every Child Oregon, a statewide organization dedicated to supporting foster youth through community engagement, is opening its Marion County chapter this month. CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) of Marion County, 3530 River Road N., is now the local Every Child affiliate that will take on most of the on-the-ground implementation of Every Child’s goals in Marion County.

“We are so delighted to start putting some infrastructure in place as we know that it will add fuel to the fire that has already been ignited in Marion County,” said Shelly Winterberg, director of field engagement for Every Child. “While many generous volunteers and foster parents have already stepped forward to engage with Every Child in its infancy in Marion County, we feel like the effort will be able to soar to new heights and engage the community with an increased energy and capacity with CASA providing the support needed.”

CASA is already embedded in the foster care system as volunteer support for foster youth. Becoming an affiliate of Every Child will add another layer of engagement to CASA’s efforts of bettering the foster care system.

“This includes providing opportunities for community members to engage; whether by meeting tangible needs or volunteering their time, offering a strong counter-narrative to some of the stereotypes associated with foster care, being relentless about foster parent recruitment, as well as seeking to offer support to existing foster parents,” Winterberg said.

Shaney Starr, executive director of CASA of Marion County, said that engaging with Every Child will broaden opportunities community members have to get involved in the foster care system.

“The reality is that not everyone can become a CASA volunteer or a foster parent, and the Every Child initiative creates yet another avenue for people to become involved in loving our children in foster care,” Starr said. “It truly is about #teamkid for all of us in Marion County from DHS to CASA to Every Child to the communities and organizations who support our work.”

Starr’s greatest needs in opening a local Every Child affiliate are twofold: volunteer power and donations, both in-kind and monetary.

“It truly takes a village to make the system better. … I know there is a lot of work to be done, but I also know that we are blessed to be part of a very generous community.  I can’t help but think about the quote from the movie Field of Dreams, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ I think we as a community are building something pretty great in Marion County, and I can’t wait to see where we go,” Starr said.

Anyone interested in getting involved can contact Starr, swing by the CASA office on River Road North, or visit www.everychildoregon.org/connect/