United Way Spotlight: CASA Provides a Voice for Kids

(Left to right): Payne County Judge Michael Kulling swears in CASA volunteers Paige Marttindale, Kylie Hager & Marie Russell.

Story provided by United Way of Payne County

This article is the third in a series highlighting the 22 nonprofit partner agencies supported by the United Way of Payne County. The United Way is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals in Payne County by investing donated dollars in nonprofits that focus on promoting education, improving health and reducing poverty.

This partner agency spotlight is CASA for Kids, Inc. 

According to CASA for Kids, in the last year there have been 148 reports of confirmed child abuse in Payne County, deeming 279 children as being exposed to abuse and/or neglect. As of May 2022, 116 children were still in Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) custody and being served by the juvenile deprived court in Payne County.

CASA for Kids provides a voice and advocacy for these children, as well as hope for a better future.

“Our purpose is to provide advocates for children aged zero to 18 who are in OKDHS custody and living in foster care as a result of abuse or neglect,” Angela Parsons, CASA for Kids Executive Director said. “The work of CASA is highly dependent upon our network of caring and compassionate volunteers.”

CASA for Kids recruits, trains and supports volunteers who advocate for children in juvenile deprived court. A CASA volunteer does not replace a caseworker or social worker on the case, but is an independent, sworn officer of the court who has been appointed to help define the best interests of the child.

“CASA volunteers visit their assigned children at least monthly,” Parsons said. “The volunteer serves as the eyes and ears of the court by providing information the judge needs to make informed decisions regarding the best permanency outcomes for the child.”

Parsons said that abuse, neglect and other trauma can mark a child for life.

“Our volunteers are trained to understand the impact of trauma on children and advocate for services that promote healing and develop resilience for the child,” she said. “We have an opportunity to end the cycle of abuse in families through advocacy, one child at a time.”

144 Payne County children were served by CASA on 82 cases in the last year. 78 of those children were from Stillwater.

“When the most vulnerable individuals in our society have a strong advocate, everyone benefits,” Parson said.

She said the biggest struggle for CASA is having enough volunteers to serve the many children in our county. 

“We are in desperate need of volunteers, and ask that anyone interested in serving please reach out to us,” Parsons said. “It is a commitment, but the work is so valuable and much needed.”

CASA for Kids is also seeking volunteers with specific skill sets to serve on their Board of Directors.

Those interested in volunteering, or would like to learn more about CASA for Kids, can call 405-624-2242 or visit www.casaforkids.com.

Parson said CASA is celebrating 30 years of child advocacy in Payne County this year. CASA for Kids also serves Logan County, and just recently expanded into Kay County. 

When you donate to United Way of Payne County, you support the work of CASA for Kids and 21 other nonprofits, which collectively impact more than 73,000 individuals and families each year. The United Way has served the community for more than 70 years. To learn more or donate visit www.unitedwaypaynecounty.org or call 405-377-2161.