CASA of the Ohio Valley began as a nonprofit in Daviess County in 1996. CASA (an acronym for court-appointed special advocate) recruits, trains, and supervises community volunteers appointed by the court system to represent children’s best interests.
CASA volunteers advocate for children who have experienced abuse or neglect and help to ensure that children are safe, have a permanent home, and have opportunities to thrive. A judge appoints each volunteer, who is expected to advocate for the child’s best interest in court.
“Our volunteers help judges develop a fuller picture of each child’s life,” said executive director Ashley Evans-Smith. “Their advocacy enables judges to make the most well-informed decision for each child.”
The assigned advocates remain with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. The organization serves children from birth through the age of 18 and, in some unique instances, 21.
“The guiding principle drives our best-interest advocacy that children grow and develop best with their family of origin if that can be safely achieved,” Evans-Smith said.
CASA is always on the hunt for quality volunteers to assist in their mission. They have a spring training class slated for April 12. Anyone who desires to help children in the community should reserve a spot by calling awareness and recruitment specialist Halie Ellis at 270-683-2138.
According to CASA’s website, children with a CASA volunteer are more likely to find a safe, permanent home and half as likely to re-enter foster care. Studies also show that those same children are more likely to succeed in school.
“Our volunteers are the heart of our organization – kids cannot be served without them,” she said. “We are advocates in the courtroom, but an additional component is to be a constant for a child in all facets of a child’s life. Many children don’t have someone consistent in their life, and our mission is to ‘be the one.’ We want to speak for them, listen, and create room for them to speak. We want to make sure their voice is heard.”
Smith-Evans added that they don’t require volunteers to have any form of specialized background or education to serve. They simply have to be a concerned citizen over the age of 21, with a heart for helping children. CASA prepares its volunteers to become advocates with an intensive training program.
The organization has grown significantly over the past 26 years, something Smith-Evans attributes to the tremendous support from the community.
“We can do so much because of the community’s giving nature, both financially and as partners in our mission,” she said. “Everyone working together allows our organization to provide services that ensure everyone thrives.”
Learn more about CASA of the Ohio Valley by visiting their website here or searching for them on social media.
“We all need someone to be on our team, cheer for us, and guide us – CASA can fill that role when no one else is there,” Smith-Evans said.
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