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Court advocates needed for abused, neglected children

ATHENS — CASA of North Alabama is hosting a “Coffee with CASA” for potential volunteers to learn  about advocating for abused and neglected children in local court systems.   

The “come and go” event is Thursday from noon to 2 p.m. at Square Clock Coffee on the Square in Athens. 

According to Limestone County Program Director Austin Pike, CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates) are volunteers who advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children.  

“Volunteers do not need to know about court proceedings or have legal experience to become a CASA,” Pike said. “We offer training, CASA staff member support and fellow advocates to help become familiar with the role and responsibilities.”  

Pike said there is a great need for volunteer advocates in Limestone County.  

“The program in Limestone is growing at a rapid rate,” she said. “Unfortunately, this means we have to turn cases away due to the lack of volunteers available to advocate for these vulnerable children. The more volunteers we are have the more cases we can take.” 

“What’s really special about CASA – with DHR when a child goes into care that case worker probably has 20 or more cases. Our CASA volunteers only have one or two cases at a time.” 

CASA of North Alabama is a 501c3 non-profit organization. It is volunteer-based with supervising staff members. In 2022, CASA of North Alabama advocated for 431 children.  

“We have a huge need,” Pike said. “Studies show children who have CASAs are less likely to go back into care. They get more attention that they need and more services in place to support them.” 

The primary responsibilities of a CASA volunteer: 

  • Gather information: Review documents and records, interview the children, family members and professionals in the children’s lives. 
  • Document findings: Provide written reports at court hearings. 
  • Appear in court: Advocate for the child’s best interests and provide testimony when necessary. 
  • Explain what is going on: Help the child understand the court proceedings. 
  • “Be the glue”: Seek cooperative solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the children’s lives. 
  • Recommend services: Ensure that the children and their family are receiving appropriate services and advocate for those that are not immediately available. Bring concerns about the child’s health, education, mental health, etc., to the appropriate professionals. 
  • Monitor case plans and court orders: Check to see that plans are being followed and mandated review hearings are being held. 
  • Keep the court informed: Update the court on developments with agencies and family members. Ensure that appropriate motions are filed on behalf of the child so the court knows about any changes in the child’s situation. 

Pike said for those who cannot be special advocates, there are other ways to help.

“Donations are always welcome on our website and we are have our annual golf tournament, Swing for Fore Children, coming up in October at Canebrake and sponsorships are still available,” she said.  

For more information, click here  or follow @casaofnorthalabama on Facebook and Instagram. 

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