Karen Dobbs of Noel serves on the board of Newton-McDonald County Court Appointed Special Advocates, or New-Mac CASA.
CASA is an organization that trains volunteers who are supervised and supported by CASA professional staff and appointed by a judge to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court.
The juvenile court judge will assign cases to have a CASA volunteer, and the volunteers act as a liaison between the children, their natural family, their foster family, caseworkers and juvenile officers, Dobbs said.
All those parties have roles dictated by law, she said. The CASA volunteer gets to have a little more casual relationship with the child and gets to know the child and his or her needs. They get to go to ballgames, for instance, she said.
Dobbs is secretary of the board of New-Mac CASA. She has been part of the board for four years and secretary for three. Before that, she was a social worker. She is also an adoptive parent.
The organization has two co-directors that report to the board. The number of volunteers is limited to 30 per director, Dobbs said.
Volunteers must go through 30 pre-service hours of training, which are provided free to the volunteers. Training is offered several times a year. The directors review the cases and assign them and monitor volunteers' work and attend court with them.
Many counties in Missouri do not have a CASA program. New-Mac CASA is helping Jasper County start a CASA program, Dobbs said, and she thinks it will be up and running this year.
Dobbs said, "I enjoy the fact that CASA is involved with foster care cases. State workers have too big a caseload, and the CASA volunteer can give them information they might not otherwise have."
She continued, "Child abuse and neglect have been my passion all my life. It's a hard occupation. It's a heartbreaker. I was passionate about helping these children have the best life they can have."
She said, as an adolescent, she remembers seeing a woman with a child that was crying and the woman kept hitting the child. She said she told the woman to stop and she did. She thinks the woman was shocked that someone said something. It was the first time it occurred to her that she could get involved, she said, and it influenced her to become a social worker.
"You just have to have a heart for that job," she said. According to a brochure for CASA, children with a CASA volunteer are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care; children served by a CASA volunteer are less likely to re-enter the foster care system; and when a CASA volunteer is assigned, larger numbers of services are ordered for children and families.General News on 07/12/2018
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