Children in Webster Parish and surrounding areas are in need of volunteers who will advocate for their best interest. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for children is seeking volunteers in the Webster, Bienville, Jackson and Claiborne Parish area.
"Anyone who will volunteer and complete training is needed," CASA Supervisor Sandra Samuel said. "The system is heavy with children who need adults to look after their best interest."
Being a loving, responsible adult with a dedication to seeing children in the best environment possible are all that is needed to be a volunteer.
"You don't have to have a degree or experience in child care or even children of your own," Samuel said. "You just have to care about others."
CASA believes that every child should have a safe and permanent home and works toward that goal by training volunteers to speak on the best interest of abused and neglected children.
"When a judge appoints CASA to a case, that CASA volunteer becomes an official part of the judicial proceedings as an officer of the court," Samuel explained. "Unlike attorneys and social workers, CASA volunteers speak exclusively for the child's best interest."
According to Volunteers for Youth Justice, which oversees CASA, in northwest Louisiana, abused and neglected children stay in temporary foster care for an average of three and a half years. When CASA is appointed to a case, the time spent in foster care is reduced to 18 months.
Annually, foster care costs U.S. tax payers more than $6 billion and more than 7,000 Louisiana children are put through court, through no fault of their own.
"These children, they have had such a hard start in life," Samuel said. "They go through the court and the system, and the only thing they are guilty of is being a victim of violence, psychological torment or sexual abuse. Most of them are frightened and confused. They need an adult voice, which will speak for them. That is what a CASA worker is, and we need more."
CASA volunteers have three responsibilities, to serve as a fact-finder for the judge by thoroughly researching the background of each assigned case, to speak for the child in the courtroom, representing their best interest and to continue to act on behalf of the child during the life of the case, ensuring the case is brought to a swift, appropriate conclusion.
Volunteers must complete 15 hours of training in the classroom, and the next classroom training dates are Saturday, September 15 and 29 from 8:30 a.m. until 4:40 p.m. If interested persons can not make both training dates, they will have the opportunity to make up the training.
Classes will be held in Arcadia at CASA offices at 1968 N. Railroad Avenue and breakfast and lunch will be provided.
Orientation will be held at the same location on Thursday September 6 from noon to 1 p.m. or 6 to 7 p.m.