by Cassie Stafford
The National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, together with its state and local member programs, supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy so every abused or neglected child in the United States can be safe, have a permanent home and the opportunity to thrive.
CASA volunteers in Sharp County are appointed by Judge Kevin King to watch over the child and be the eyes and ears for King. Volunteers must be age 21 and older, and attend a local training class and pass a background check.
Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. The advocate visits the child at least once a month to see how they are doing. The volunteer can interview the parents, foster parents, the schools, anyone that is involved in the child’s life.
Advocates have one or two cases tops, so that they can devote their time to the children and make sure their needs are being met. The advocate will then report back to the Coordinator.
The Coordinator then writes a court report. The advocate will go with the child to court and present the court report to the judge and speak for the child if needed.
“Basically, we are here to help out the child,” said April Garrett, Sharp County Coordinator. “We definitely need advocates, there are so many cases and right now we have seven advocates for Sharp County. They can only cover one to two cases each and there are probably close to 100 cases in Sharp County alone.”
Due to the lack of volunteers, there are a lot of children that need advocates that do not have them. An upcoming training meeting will be held in Pocahontas on February 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with lunch provided, and February 18 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., at First United Methodist Church, located at 400 North Thomasville Ave.
“When it’s possible, our main goal is to get the child back to their parents. We can talk with parents and encourage them and let them know of the different kinds of help they can get,” said Garrett.
Independent research has demonstrated that children with a CASA volunteer are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care and less likely to re-enter care.

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