Panola County children's services board highlights abused, neglected children at annual candlelight event (copy)

CASA volunteer Gloria Creel spoke about how court-appointed special advocates help children in need at a ceremony in April 2018.

A local nonprofit that serves and advocates for children in foster care is looking for more volunteers.

CASA of Harrison, Marion and Panola County hopes to gain more volunteers to help local foster children. The acronym stands for court-appointed special advocate.

Recruiter and trainer Kathryn Barber used to be a CPS case worker in Houston, and after she quit, she began volunteering for CASA to stay involved. A year ago she was hired to work for the agency to do recruiting and training.

Barber said they need everyday volunteers from the community to represent children in the community. Volunteers are not required to be childcare specialists.

“You get to know the child, you get to know what their needs are, what their needs are in their placement, what their family’s needs are,” she said. “You get to know what their needs in school are, what their medical needs are, and you use all of that information to make recommendations for the best placement for those children.”

The mission is an important one, she said. Children in foster care need people who are advocating for their best interest.

“There are many people working to do that, but most of them are burdened with large caseloads, and a CASA volunteer works with one family at a time so they can better get to know those children and their needs,” Barber said.

CASA volunteers work hand in hand with CPS case workers, the foster care system and attorneys that are assigned to the children.

Local attorney Holly Hammons, who has six years of experience with CPS cases, said that CASA is a tremendous resource for judges and attorneys.

“They visit the homes, interview family members, speak to law enforcement,” she said. “Before every court hearing, the CASA volunteer types a report to the court on the wellbeing of the child, they provide recommendations based on their investigation. If the parents are doing well in their service plan, CASA volunteers can act as support and provide them with positive feedback. Judges rely on their discretion and devotion to the kids. I’ve never had a bad experience with any CASA volunteer.”

To get involved with CASA, contact Kathryn Barber by phone at (903) 452-0190 or email at kathryn@casaofharrisoncounty.org. CASA is a nationwide program, with Texas CASA serving 213 counties in Texas. You can find them online at texascasa.org.

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