By MARIE NESMITH
With virtual training kicking off Oct. 1, Bartow’s Court Appointed Special Advocates program is seeking additional volunteers to serve as an “independent voice” for foster children.
“Being a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is not only a rewarding experience, but also life changing for children who need a caring adult to intervene on their behalf, ” said Advocates for Children President Rachel Castillo in a news release. “Our CASA volunteers provide a source of support for children in foster care and are a vital part of the process to move these children to a safe and permanent home.”
Bartow CASA, which is based in Cartersville, operates under the umbrella of Advocates for Children. In addition to operating Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter, the nonprofit provides numerous programs that aid in the awareness, prevention and treatment of child abuse.
Honored twice by Georgia CASA, Bartow CASA captured the Established Program Award of Excellence and the Innovative Award of Excellence in 2011 and 2015, respectively.
“Trained volunteers help abused and neglected children in the juvenile court system by assessing the child’s situation, consulting with the experts and others in their life, and reporting to the judge what is in the child’s best interest,” said Scott Sherwin, program manager for Bartow CASA. “Our goal is to advocate for a safe, permanent home for each child.
“The Bartow CASA program is proud to celebrate its 20th year of helping children in foster care. Over two decades, we have trained approximately 500 volunteers and participated in thousands of court cases.”
As Sherwin noted, CASA volunteers evaluate a child’s situation by talking with those closest to them, such as relatives, day-care providers, teachers, doctors and counselors. After conducting the interviews, advocates will make a recommendation to the judge, regarding where the youth should be permanently placed.
“A CASA volunteer serves as an independent voice for abused and neglected children during court proceedings,” Sherwin said. “CASA volunteers are the most intensely trained of Advocates’ volunteers, with over 30 hours of class time and 10 hours of court observation and gaining in-person experience with DFCS, juvenile court and other entities.”
Bartow CASA’s upcoming eight-week training session will meet on Thursdays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Along with online classes, participants will observe a pair of court hearings.
To enroll in the training, individuals must be 21 or older and complete an extensive background check.
“Due to safety concerns surrounding COVID-19, we moved our training to a virtual environment,” Sherwin said. “We switched mid-stream during our most recent spring training class, and — aside from the learning curve — everyone adjusted without issue. My team of three experienced CASA coordinators leads the training and can still show videos, work on practice cases and bring guest speakers.”
Those interested in the CASA training need to contact Sherwin at 770-386-1060, ext. 241, or email@example.com.
According to the release, “Each day, Georgia has an average of 33 confirmed cases of child abuse. That devastating figure is indicative of a broad spectrum problem that stems from drug and alcohol abuse, anger, a family history of abuse and other issues. CASA volunteers can help children navigate the foster system in an effort to find safe and stable homes.”