CASA moves forward

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By Traci Chapman

Canadian County Court Appointed Special Advocates this week took its first step back toward its mission – helping children.

On Monday, Associate District Judge Bob Hughey swore in seven new CASA volunteers. The organization is a nonprofit, United Way partner agency that recruits and trains volunteers who work on behalf of children and youth who are involved in the legal system after being removed from their home or being determined as abused or neglected.

CASA volunteers are appointed by the juvenile court judge – in Canadian County, Hughey – and work as independent “fact finders.”  CASA advocates represent abused and neglected children, working with the court system and Department of Human Services to make sure all parties have completed information about a specific case.

“The new volunteers have made the extraordinary commitment to ‘speak up’ for these vulnerable children in court and to advocate for them until they reach a permanent home,” CASA board president Debra Roberts said.

Volunteers Alex Corbitt, Viola Dinwiddie, Kathy Islas, Ramona Liddell, Christi McRee, Angela Tunstall and Mary Young completed a 30-hour training program and will work about 10 to 12 hours a month as CASA advocates, Roberts said.

CASA was also recently certified by national CASA, officials said.

“The National CASA quality assurance process is very rigorous, and reflects our commitment to ensure every child we serve has the most powerful volunteer advocate working on their behalf,” National CASA Association CEO Michael Piraino said. “This certification says Canadian County CASA has demonstrated to us a strong capacity to provide excellent services to the abused and neglected children within their community.”

CASA volunteers work on behalf of children throughout the country, and a growing metropolitan area like Canadian County has a particularly strong need for individuals willing to stand up for them, officials said. Locally, there are more than 300 open cases in Canadian County involving the alleged abuse or neglect of children and only a fraction of those are represented by a CASA advocate.

“Canadian County CASA has a need for approximately 100 additional volunteers,” Roberts said.

Anyone interested in working as an advocate is asked to attend an informational meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 11 in Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital’s meeting room A/B. CASA’s next training class is slated to begin in late August or early September, officials said.

CASA will also be holding an Aug. 23 fundraising event. A Zumbathon is set from 10 a.m. until noon at Christ’s Church of Yukon, located at 620 W. Vandament. The $10 entry fee will be used solely to support Canadian County CASA, officials said.

For more information about CASA or the August event, contact the county office at (405) 264-5508 or [email protected].