Tess Fletcher, executive director or the Children’s Advocacy Alliance is urging Faulkner County citizens who made 2014 resolution to help someone or volunteer in their community to become a Court Appointed Special 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 Judicial District advocates are community volunteers who are trained to stand up for abused and neglected children, she explained.

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 are important as they offer children trust and advocacy during complex legal proceedings," said Fletcher. "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 opinion and hopes, while remaining objective observers. The CASA Advocate provides consistency and stability in a time of turmoil."

New advocate training begins in February and any 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. 

All potential advocates must be 21 years or older, be able to successfully pass background checks and a personal interview prior to starting training, have strong verbal and written communication skills, be able to commit 15 hours each month, able to keep information confidential and can work within established program guidelines and respects a child’s inherent right to grow up with dignity in a safe and nurturing environment.

The Children’s Advocacy Alliance of North Central Arkansas is an independent nonprofit serving Faulkner, Van Buren, Searcy, Pope and Conway counties. 

Originally founded in 2000 as CASA of the 20th Judicial District, the Children’s Advocacy Alliance oversees both the Central Arkansas Children’s Advocacy Center and the CASA 20th Judicial District program. 

The Central Arkansas Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) coordinates investigative and treatment efforts involving law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, medical, and mental health services. 

These services are coordinated through a community-based facility to protect children from further trauma and to provide them with a foundation for healing from their abuse.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the 20th Judicial District recruits and trains local advocates to stand up for abused and neglected children, represent their best interests in court, and help them find safe, permanent homes. 

Together, these programs protect children from further harm and restore hope to their lives. 

For more information contact Executive Director Tess Fletcher at 501-328-3347 or visit hopeandjustice.org.