Since it's conception in July 2002 under the Southwestern Youth Services umbrella, the program has trained 29 volunteers who have served 65 children in Jackson County.
Court Appointed Special Advocates are trained volunteers appointed by court judges to speak for the best interests of children who are brought before the court for reasons of abuse or neglect.
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is an official part of the judicial proceedings, working along side attorneys and social workers. By handling only one or two cases at a time, the CASA has time to thoroughly explore the history of each case. The volunteer talks with the child, parents, family members, neighbors, school officials, doctors, and others involved in the child's background who might have facts about the case. The volunteer reviews all court facts about the case and reviews all court documents pertaining to the case. He or she then is expected to submit formal reports to the Judge at every scheduled hearing/review. The CASA continues to monitor the case to assure that the judicial and child welfare systems are moving ahead to secure a safe, permanent home for the child, and that the court-ordered services are provided to the child and family. The CASA can be an invaluable resource for the attorney for the child and social worker in reaching their goals for permanency.
The CASA concept was first implemented by Judge David Soukup of Seattle, Wash., in 1977. As a judge, he felt a compelling need to have more information to him on which he could base his decisions, most of whichhas lifetime ramifications for children. In the U.S. more than one half million children are in foster care because they cannot safely live with their families. Since the beginning of the CASA program in 1977, CASA has grown to include over 970 local programs in 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. Nearly 70,000 National CASA volunteers serve approximately 280,000 of those abused or neglected children every year.
The 3rd District CASA program has grown, too. The program recently received the only New Program Start-up grant for the state of Oklahoma from National CASA Association. These monies will allow for the current part-time director to be employed full time and the additional hiring of a part time Volunteer Coordinator. But this was only part of the need being filled.
More volunteers are needed to help the children of our county. Many volunteers come from the Altus Air Force Base community and leave volunteer vacancies when permanent change of duty orders are given. Some children are left without a replacement volunteer. Other children are new to the system and need a volunteer to speak on their behalf.