CASA: A Voice for the Children

Written by Radina Gigova in the July 2010 Issue

Many circumstances can make a home unsafe for a child. In some cases of abuse and neglect, children are removed from their home and have to cope with the loss of family, comfort and security.

The Oklahoma CASA Association (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children) provides trained volunteers who represent the best interest of abused and neglected children in the juvenile court.

“It’s an extra set of eyes and ears for the court to make a decision that’s in the best interest of the child,” said Lee Ann Limber, Executive Director of CASA in Oklahoma County.

According to DHS, Oklahoma is among the top 10 states in the nation with the highest number of abused and neglected children. CASA helped more than 300 cases last year.

“CASA is an incredible opportunity to be a voice for a child that doesn’t have a voice, and that’s priceless,” said Edmond resident, Susan Conway who has been a volunteer for 10 years. “I think that’s the main thing that kept me in the courtroom because it is, in some ways, the only voice they have,” she said.

In Oklahoma, only about one third of children get a CASA volunteer assigned to their case. “If we can get more CASA supervisors and volunteers, then more children can have a CASA. Not every child gets one,” said Lane.

The CASA case managers are those who assign volunteers to the specific case, after receiving a referral from a judge. CASA reviews each case individually to explore all sides of the issue. Specially trained volunteers interview the biological parents, foster family, teachers and doctors while getting to know the child in order to determine what is best.

Pam Lane, a volunteer from Edmond, joined CASA in November and is now working on her first case. While she was still in training, she realized that a lot of kids are placed in very difficult situations.

“We just expect them to go on, to recover, and we are talking potentially horrible things that have happened,” she said. “We expect all these children to bounce back and recover, and they do a lot of the times, but I just think that they need all the help we can give them,” said Lane.

CASA has attracted the attention of two Edmond builders for an event in late July at Penn Square Mall. Matt Wilson with Matt Wilson Custom Homes and Craig Brudzinski of Remodeling Concepts have designed a playhouse to be raffled off that will allow four children to play comfortably.

“We think it’s a great idea to sell raffle tickets at Penn Square to give everyone who is there an equal chance at winning a fun and uniquely designed Playhouse for their children,” said Wilson.

The Playhouse Parade is presented by Chesapeake Energy and part of a CASA initiative to raise funds for the program.

“We were asked to help out and be one of the pioneers of this event and were glad to do it,” said Wilson. “Although this is our first time to work with CASA, we are aware of the good work they do for our community. We know our time has been well spent as it will benefit the children who need advocates.”

Visit the Playhouse Parade at Penn Square Mall, July 25 through August 8. Anyone interested in
volunteering or sponsoring, contact Joy Short at [email protected] To learn more about CASA, visit www.okcountycasa.org.

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