Tess Fletcher, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Alliance is urging all Van Buren County citizens who are looking to help someone or volunteer in their community to become a CASA advocate.

"There are children living right here in our community who need someone to stand up for them and be a voice for them," Fletcher said.

CASA 20th advocates are community volunteers who are trained to stand up for abused and neglected children. They represent the child’s best interests in court, and help them find safe, permanent homes.

When a CASA is appointed a case, they explore the child’s background and assess their situation to make objective recommendations to the court. The child may be placed with parents, relatives, foster care, or available for permanent adoption. A CASA advocate provides the judge with carefully researched information about the child to help the court make a sound decision about that child’s future. The CASA advocate makes recommendations about placement to the judge and follows through until the child reaches a safe, permanent home. To prepare a recommendation, the CASA advocate talks with the child, parents, family members, social workers, school officials, health providers, and others who are knowledgeable about the child. The CASA advocate also reviews all records pertaining to the child’s school, medical and case worker reports and other documents.

CASA advocates offer children trust and advocacy during complex legal proceedings. They explain to the child the events that are happening, the reasons they are in court, and the roles of the judge, lawyers, and social workers. CASA advocates also encourage the child to express his or her own opinions and hopes, while remaining objective observers. The CASA advocate provides consistency and stability in a time of turmoil.

Training begins in February and anyone interested should contact the Children’s Advocacy Alliance at 501-328-3347 to begin the application and background check process or to speak with an advocate supervisor for more information.