|Judge Scott N. Johansen swears Kendall Casey in as a 7th District Court appointed special advocate . The Helper resident has volunteered to help with the CASA program in Carbon and Emery counties. Volunteers are put through a special training to perform child advocate duties.|
Stories about children who are removed from homes because of parental neglect or abuse are becoming more common.
Many Castle Valley residents may read the reports about abused and neglected children in the newspaper and turn the page. Other members of the community try to help.
"The people I work with volunteer to act as advocates for the children and also act as their friends as well," said Kerri Larsen, the 7th Judicial District coordinator for the court appointed special Aavocate program operating in Carbon and Emery Counties.
"Right now, we have a lot more kids than we have advocates to help them," pointed out the CASA program coordinator.
Between the two counties, Larsen indicated that there are 222 children in need of CASA advocates and there are only 17 people who are active, trained volunteers participating in the program.
"A volunteer can only take a couple of kids, so you can see we are shorthanded," stated Larsen.
Court appointed advocates are ordinary men and women who find time in daily schedules to help youth in the Castle Valley community.
The program's volunteers come from all walks of life, all professions and all educational as well as ethnic backgrounds.
What the volunteers share in common are the objectivity and profound commitment to making a real, lasting difference in a child's life.
When a CASA volunteer is appointed to a case, the individual becomes responsible for gathering and providing as much information as possible to the court.
Program participants review records, interview parents and relatives, consult with teachers, neighbors and foster care providers.
The volunteers advocate for children and families to gain access to needed support and services.
CASAs remind all involved parties - from parents and caseworkers to lawyers and judges - that, at the heart of the cases, are children who deserve a safe place to call home.
"It takes special people and we need more of them," noted Larsen. "I realize a lot of people don't even know about the program. I didn't know about it until I got this job to coordinate it a short time ago."
CASA volunteers are not required to have legal training, but must be older than 21 and must agree to submit to criminal background checks.
Once approved to participate in the program, volunteers are trained on juvenile justice, child welfare, cultural awareness, how to interview children and how to provide recommendations to the court.
Individuals interested in helping the abused and neglected children in Carbon and Emery counties are encouraged to contact Larsen at (435) 381-5595. Castle Valley residents with Internet access may send requests for information to email@example.com.