CASA of White County

Service to the Community, by the Community...be a Volunteer!

CASA of White County is part of the National CASA organization, with State and local supervision. CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, currently has 47 advocates, who are a diverse group of White County citizens that are trained to investigate, monitor, encourage and make recommendations to the juvenile court judge solely on behalf of a foster child. CASA has provided these services to 119 children so far this year. Our advocates hope is to make a difference in the life of these hurting children. We seek to train quality, caring citizens to become Child Advocates and to educate the community about how to protect and provide for its greatest resource, its children.

White County has a lot to be thankful for! We live in a great community with good schools, many sports and civic activities for our children, and a strong family bond evident in many homes. CASA strives to show support for the good parenting evident in the community, while not forgetting to help those who are struggling”, said Nita Cochran, Executive Director of CASA.

220 White County children entered the foster care system in 2009. These children, through no fault of their own, find themselves in a new home, school and church, often with ties to extended family, playmates and regular activities gone. Thankfully, we have loving, trained foster families in White County, says Ashley Bayne, a CASA case coordinator and foster parent herself, who can be the safety net for these children while their parents try to get their life back in order and work to provide a safe home for their children.

At CASA we like to say, “If a parent has the desire to be a good parent, we can get them the resources and skills to do it”. As a CASA, we have the opportunity to help families who are working towards making positive changes which will affect their children for a lifetime. Kim Wilson, another CASA case coordinator, has learned that everyone has a story and the majority of families who are in the court system want a better life for their children. “CASA's are aware of the lack of emotional and physical support so many people have, and how many are truly alone in our community” stated Wilson. “Most, if not all, of the parents we work with had little positive modeling in their childhood, and they are unable to pass along positive parenting skills they never experienced themselves”. CASAs encourage parents to use the resources provided to them by the Department of Child and Family Services, which enable the children and parents to have their basic needs met and learn skills, while working towards a successful reunification, if possible.

Lori Sansom, also a case coordinator at CASA, explains what it takes to be a volunteer for CASA. “To be a volunteer requires no prior experience in the legal or social work fields. Each volunteer receives training to investigate, facilitate/support, advocate and monitor cases where there is court involvement due to child abuse or neglect. A volunteer may interview doctors, therapists, relatives, neighbors…anyone who might have information relevant to the case and to the child, says Sansom. The goal of a CASA volunteer is to see that child placed in a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible, and to be a constant in a child’s life when almost everything else is changing. We seek to provide the judge and others involved in the case with as much information as possible in order to make a sound decision on behalf of the child. We have volunteer trainings conducted 3 times a year with our next training scheduled for June, says Nita Cochran, who conducts the training sessions, and would love to have a quality group to train this summer. The unique role that CASA serves in these cases is the ability to have one wonderful volunteer that serves on one case until the case is closed. When children enter care their foster home and family service worker may change several times over the life of the case, unfortunately, due to any number of circumstances. Our volunteers work with one child or one family from the time they enter foster care until they are back in a safe permanent home. We want to be one stable source of support that is with them every step of the way, says Cochran, and our volunteers commit to serving a child until that happens.

The messages that we want to share with the community are that “Good Parenting Lasts a Lifetime” and that if we all do our part, our community will be stronger for it. Take good care of your own family and help others by volunteering to be a foster parent, CASA advocate, donate to the Foster Kids clothes closet or serve as a coach or mentor in the community. Invest in the future of White County by investing in its children!! For more information about how you can find a place to volunteer, contact Nita Cochran at CASA. (305-3428).