Volunteers wanted to speak for abused children

Want to speak up for the best interest of abused and neglected children in northeast Oklahoma?

CASA said now is the time to become a volunteer.

"Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, is gearing up for a new volunteer training that is set to begin on Aug. 1," said CASA Marketing and Resource Development Coordinator Melissa Barnes.

"The mission of CASA of Northeast Oklahoma is to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in juvenile courts in northeast Oklahoma. We promote and support quality volunteer representation for children to provide each child with a safe, permanent, and nurturing home."

Barnes said CASA volunteers are "professionally trained citizen volunteers who advocate in court for the best interests of children who have been abused and neglected who are living in foster care. Our goal is simple, keep children safe while they are under the courts' purview, while working to find permanent nurturing homes for children."

She said CASA volunteers are needed when the courts need an extra set of eyes and ears on a child, to help ensure the safety of the child first.

"Every year in the United States, more than 7 million children come to the attention of children to come to the attention of Child Protective Services due to parents and caregivers endangering or failing to properly care for their children," Barnes said. "In Oklahoma, the number of children is about 15,000 per year."

She said substance abuse by parents, domestic violence in homes, untreated mental health issues, sexual abuse of children, and child abandonment are just some of the issues that cause children to come to the attention of CPS.

"Due to the sheer number of children and families, the courts and CPS are overwhelmed. They need help," she said. "CASA volunteers focus their attention on only one or two cases at a time, really getting to know the child and his or her family so that the court has a clearer picture of the circumstances of the child and his or her family.

CASA of Northeast Oklahoma serves children in Craig, Delaware, Mayes, Ottawa, Rogers, and Washington Counties as well as the Quapaw Nation.

The volunteer training, Virtual Coffee with CASA, is scheduled for July 11 at 10 a.m. via a Zoom meeting.

(Zoom ID: 991 2403 6931).

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