Volunteers advocate for children
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — The Court Appointed Special Advocates is a non-profit organization train and supervises volunteers throughout the community who advocate for abused and neglected children for their best interests in court.
CASA Volunteer Coordinator Denise McCrary said the organization was started in the late 1970s by a juvenile court judge in Seattle.
“He was concerned about making drastic decisions without enough information on what was going on,” she said. “His main interest was the best interest for the children.”
McCrary said CASA’s main objective is to speak up for what is best for that child, whether anybody else agrees with it or not.
“CASA will visit the child, visit the parents, maybe the school and talk with the counselor,” she said. “They will also speak to anybody involved that might have pertinent information.”
She also said the volunteer creates reports voice their concerns and make the recommendations to the judge that is overseeing the case.
“The judge weighs those decisions,” McCrary said.
According to the CASA website, there are close to 87,000 volunteers nationally. Over 280,000 abused and neglected children had a CASA volunteer who spoke for their best interests in the previous year.
Okmulgee County Resource Center Executive Director Kimberly Deer said that CASA is always recruiting volunteers for the children.
“We are constantly recruiting,” she said.
Deer said they are changing the format for the volunteers who are in training.
“We are doing 15 hours online and 15 hours in person,” she said.
In Oklahoma, CASA serves children in 64 of the state’s 77 counties, as well as four tribal courts.
“We can speak for a child at Creek Nation,” McCrary said. “We can be that advocate for them.”
CASA began in Okmulgee in 1988. McCrary said the Muscogee (Creek) Nation provided the first area for CASA to hold its organization in Okmulgee County.
“It was a 16-room Victorian house,” she said.
McCrary said as soon as the volunteers get through training, they will be sworn in and start pretty soon after that.
“We request cases for the volunteers and we review them,” she said. “If it is something that they can work with, then we assign them to that case.”
McCrary said she goes out with the volunteers on their initial visits to the people they are assigned to.
“Once I feel that they are comfortable, then they are able to do that on their own,” she said.
For more information on how to be a CASA volunteer, contact the Okmulgee office at: 918-756-2549 or the Sapulpa Office at: 918-224-6492.