|Volunteers advocate for children in courtrooms|
|Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer|
|January 02, 2013 11:45 am|
New CASA volunteers (from left) are Mike Leaver, Crystal Binger, (with Judge Cynthia Beaman), Rachelle Schmeer and Roxann Haynes. The Pilot/Submitted photo
Five Curry County citizens have volunteered to be “the army” behind CASA, the Court Appointed Special Advocates who represent children involved in the court system.
“CASA is the most important tool we have to fight on behalf of each child,” said Mona Chandler, director of CASA of Curry County. “They want to be a positive and stable adult in a child’s life. They see how their actions will benefit not only their self-perception of their role in the community, but how their actions will directly improve the lives of the children they serve.”
CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children navigating the overburdened legal and social service system or perhaps languishing in inappropriate group or foster homes.
“I frequently rely on the information provided by CASA volunteers who work hard to ensure that these children have safe and stable permanent homes,” said Circuit Court Judge Jesse C. Margolis. “The time that these advocates devote to protecting children is an extraordinarily important contribution to making our dependency system function well.”
Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives, Chandler said.
“I am blessed to have the advocates that I have to lead the way for our abused and neglect children in Curry County,” she posted on Facebook. “To give them a voice and to take a stand.”
In Curry County, there are between 55 and 60 children in the foster care system at any given time, and grants and donations allow CASA to serve about half of them. There are currently more than a dozen advocates.
“Being a CASA advocate is part of my life’s work, said Veronica Spaulding, when she was sworn in Dec. 12. “There has been no greater way for me to not just improve individual lives but the health of my entire community.”
Other volunteers sworn in that day included Mike Leaver, Crystal Binger, Rachelle Schmeer and Roxann Haynes.