Volunteers give children voice in legal system
CONNIE JO DISCOE
McCOOK, Neb. — The ink was barely dry on their certificates of completed training when two of the newest CASA volunteers were immediately assigned to cases in Furnas County.
Cathy McDowell of McCook, CASA director, said the program is always seeking new volunteers, and particularly in the six Southwest Nebraska counties around Red Willow. She was thrilled Tuesday morning that two of the newest volunteers will serve children in Furnas County.
Red Willow County Judge Anne Paine swore in the four new “Court-Appointed Special Advocate” volunteers in her courtroom. They are Amanda Huxoll and Leah Ruggles, Furnas County; and Stacey Porter and Samantha Reichert, Red Willow County.
Their trainers were McDowell, Glenda Fletcher and Kellie Soden.
Judge Paine told the new volunteers, “Talk to the children, and be a support system for them. I rely on you to talk to the children and work closely with their guardian ad litem.”
“Court-Appointed Special Advocates” are volunteers assigned by judges to speak in court for the safety and well-being of children removed from their homes because of abuse and/or neglect. A CASA volunteer will review records, research information, talk to those involved in the child’s case, monitor the child’s case and maintain the utmost confidentiality.
Empowered by the courts, a CASA volunteer gives a child a voice in a legal system geared toward adults and an advocate for their rights and needs while in foster care.
A CASA volunteer remains with the child’s case until he or she is placed in a safe, permanent home.
A CASA volunteer must pass a background check, participate in a 30-hour initial training course, complete 12 hours of continuing education each year and agree to stay with a case until it is closed.
McDowell said she has 27 CASA volunteers, and is always looking for more people interested in working for the well-being of children.
The Prairie Plains CASA program, based in McCook, started in Red Willow, Hitchcock and Furnas counties in 1996, and has expanded into Chase, Frontier, Hayes and Dundy counties. McDowell seeks volunteers in every county.
The Prairie Plains CASA office is located in the Temple Building at 322 Norris Avenue, in downtown McCook. For more information about CASA or to inquire about volunteer training, contact Prairie Plains director Cathy McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (308) 340-6832.