MUSKOGEE, Okla. — CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for Children is a nonprofit agency that recruits and trains volunteers to advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children.
Many of the children they serve are in foster care, while others are at home with their parents, but in the custody of the state.
“Children in foster care go through a lot of changes,” said training and outreach coordinator, Jenny Crosby. “They may change homes frequently. They change DHS caseworkers frequently. Our CASA volunteers provide a really consistent adult that’s there throughout the entire case.”
CASA volunteers are assigned one child at a time, to get to know that child and their needs. Volunteers advocate for placement, therapeutic needs, education needs, and medical needs.
“They are the heart of our organization. They are on the front lines doing the real work,” said Crosby.
CASA for Children has branches all over Oklahoma and the country, but the Muskogee office caters to Muskogee, Sequoyah, Wagoner, and McIntosh counties. Right now, they have 57 active volunteers, they’re looking for several more.
Teacher Samantha Sprague is one of their volunteers. “I think when you see a need for a child you want to do everything you can to help them,” said Sprague.
COVID hit the organization hard, they lost several volunteers and had a hard time getting new recruits. The training was also difficult in a virtual setting.
Starting in April, they’ll have in-person training for the first time in two years, and they’re hoping this will encourage more people to volunteer and help advocate for this vulnerable population.
“This job is so worth it. Everything that we do is for the kids,” said Sprague.
CASA volunteers spend 10-12 hours a month, meeting with kids in person, talking with doctors, teachers, lawyers, getting to know the families and recommending resources.
"We really need people and we need people who have a heart for children,” said Crosby.
To be a volunteer, you have to be 21 or older, pass a criminal background check, and have a love and desire to help children.
The Muskogee CASA office served 262 children last year, which isn’t even half of the kids who needed to be served in the 4 county area. They’re hoping more volunteers will allow them to help even more children.
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