Story and photos provided by CASA for Kids of Payne and Logan Counties
On February 12, Payne County Associate District Judge Stephen R. Kistler swore in four new CASA volunteers — Court-Appointed Special Advocates for abused and neglected children.
The ceremony took place in the Payne County Court House where the volunteers took an oath promising to advocate for the best interest of the child. The newly appointed CASA volunteers included Arynne Horton, Elizabeth Banks, Donna Yost, and Zachary Walling.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. A Court Appointed Special Advocate is a trained volunteer sworn in by a judge to represent the best interests of children who are abused/neglected and are involved in active cases in the juvenile court system. The CASA volunteer investigates the child’s circumstances, provides fact-based information and makes recommendations to the court while becoming a source of support for the child. The CASA serves as the eyes and ears of the court by providing information the judge needs in order to make decisions regarding the permanency outcomes of each case.
CASA is a unique concept for the juvenile court system. When the first program began in Seattle, Washington in 1977, it was an experiment to involve community volunteers in sensitive and confidential matters of families. The volunteers, speaking as the guardians for the children in court, brought significant information about the children to whom they were appointed that was free from biases, policies, and procedures. The volunteers proved to be an effective way to help prevent inappropriate and unduly long foster care placements, and to provide the court with a perspective based solely on the child’s best interest. As a result, courts in other states began adopting the idea and the CASA concept has become one of the fastest growing child advocacy movements in the country.
CASA volunteers are asked to meet with their assigned child regularly and are authorized to interview people in the child’s life, such as relatives, social workers, physicians, and teachers. They attend court hearings to report their findings to the judge.
“The CASA for Kids program is an invaluable resource for the juvenile Court system,” said Michael Kulling, Assistant District Attorney. “I have worked with the CASA program for more than twenty years and the volunteers who agree to work in cases for the best interests of our abused and neglected children do an outstanding job. These volunteers assist the Court system in making decisions and effect the best interests of these children. I could not adequately perform my role as Assistant District Attorney in these cases without the many great CASA volunteers we have in our community.”
There are approximately 340 children in the CASA for Kids service area (Payne and Logan Counties) who are eligible to have a CASA volunteer. Over the past year, CASA for Kids volunteers have served 164 of these children. Many more advocates are needed.
There are no prerequisites for becoming a CASA volunteer other than being at least 21 years of age, clearing a background screening and successfully completing 30 hours of training. Free Training Classes will be held in February, March, June, August, and October. To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer, call 405-624-2242.
CASA for Kids, Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that recruits, screens, trains and supports community volunteers who advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children in juvenile deprived court in Payne and Logan Counties.