CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates); before the Chamber General Meeting last week I knew them as a non-profit group that had advocates that represent minors in the court system but I was surprised to learn the difference they are having in the future of our community. CASA advocates help provide the stability that is need in this uncertain time in a child’s life not only through the judicial system but through all aspects of their lives. The CASA movement began in 1977 when Seattle Superior Court Judge David Soukup identified the need for the judicial system to be better informed on the child’s well being. Under the system used at that time the only information provided to the courts was done through the Child Protective Services and while they had the child’s best interest in mind they were not equipped to provide detailed representation that would allow for better guidance on the decisions made through the court system.

Children represented by a CASA Advocate in the court system has shown to improve the decisions made on their behalf and this is seen through everything from dramatically improved graduation rates to their being less likely to have to reenter the court system. Our local CASA office is an alliance of the Court Appointed Special Advocates of the 20th Judicial District and Center. They service Faulkner Van Buren and Searcy Counties. In 2016 they represented 155 children with their level of services varying from therapy and medical exams to being their voice through the judicial process. They currently have represented 22 children to date in 2017 but with a lack of volunteers there is a number of children in our community that go unrepresented. Classes need to participate as a CASA advocate are provided quarterly at the Faulkner County office but with a group of four or more interested volunteers they host a class locally. To volunteer as an advocate or learn more about CASA you can contact your local office at 501-745-3038 or their regional office at 501-327-3347.