Volunteer foster child advocates sought


By Mary O.Esparza - mesparza@civitasmedia.com



Jackson County seeks child welfare advocates to help those who can’t help themselves.

The Court Appointed Special Advocates or CASA for children of Southwest Oklahoma Inc. is seeking volunteers to represent abused and neglected children in the Jackson County legal system. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services or OKDHS 2014 fact sheet reported Jackson County had a monthly average of 73 children in out-of-home foster care during the year.

“CASA of Southwest Oklahoma organization believes that all children deserve a safe, permanent, and loving home — a place where they can grow and thrive,” said Wilma Whittaker, CASA executive director. “Children who have been subjected to abuse and/or neglect must be removed from their homes for their own safety, but often they lack a voice in court when it comes to what is in their best interests.”

According to Whittaker, child welfare specialists at OKDHS do their best to serve these children and to keep them safe, but the child welfare system is overburdened and underfunded. The CASA volunteer plays a very important role in the child’s life. The advocate is assigned one case at a time,whereas OKDHS workers may change cases time to time, and possibly overlook important information pertaining to the best interests of the child, Whittaker said.

CASA is a standalone program, but maintains solid communication with OKDHS concerning the children, according to program documentation.

Yasmin LoGiudice of CASA is scheduled to host a local training session to begin the last week of August and extend into September. It will be a full preservice training agenda that usually entails five evening sessions and two full Saturdays. The training is slated for Altus, but the location has yet to be determined. CASA staff is seeking to establish a satellite office in Altus.

A CASA volunteer helps to protect children’s rights.

“Our hope for Jackson County is to advocate for 30 to 40 percent of the foster children within the first year of operation in that county,” Whittaker said. “This will take significant recruitment and training efforts, but the community is very supportive of it’s children and I believe there is a great possibility we can attain this goal and quite possibly surpass it.”

For more information call 580-248-CASA.

By Mary O.Esparza

mesparza@civitasmedia.com

Reach Mary O. Esparza at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077

Reach Mary O. Esparza at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077

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