The Court Appointed Special Advocates of the 20th Judicial District are celebrating 10 years of service to abused and neglected children in the community.  

“It is a bittersweet milestone,” said Executive Director Tess Fletcher. “We are proud of the work we have done to help the children in our community, but we wish our services were not needed.”   

Since last year, 53 community volunteer advocates have served on 81 dependency neglect cases involving 152 children in Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy counties. This is the highest number of children CASA 20th has served in its 10-year history.  

CASA 20th advocates have worked tirelessly over the years, speaking for children in court and working to ensure the children are placed in safe, permanent homes.  

“Our core belief is that all children deserve to grow up in a safe and stable home, and CASA 20th advocates will continue to support these children until every child in our community has that opportunity,” said CASA 20th Program Director Els Strickland.

Fletcher said it is the support received from the community and the dedication of the advocates that has been the driving force of CASA 20th’s success. 

While the national average length of service for CASA advocates is 24 months, the CASA 20th program’s average length of service is 30 months; a testament, Strickland said, to the commitment of the advocates to the abused and neglected children they serve.  

As the CASA 20th program continues to grow, there is always a need for more community volunteers to become advocates. 

A unique feature of the CASA 20th program is that each advocate can only serve a maximum of two cases at any one time and while this ensures the advocate has the time needed to focus on the children in their cases, it means the only way CASA 20th can work towards serving all children in need is to recruit and train new advocates on a continual basis.

In April, in partnership with the Central Arkansas Children’s Advocacy Center, CASA 20th formed the Children’s Advocacy Alliance of North Central Arkansas, an umbrella agency that oversees both the CASA 20th program and the Central Arkansas Children’s Advocacy Center. The program will expand the service area from Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy counties, to include Conway and Pope counties.  

Fletcher will stay on as the executive director of the entire agency, with Els Strickland appointed as CASA 20th program director.  

“The CASA 20th program remains as strong as ever,” said Molly Chappell, president of the board of directors. “By adding the Children’s Advocacy Center, we can have greater impact on the lives of abused and neglected children in our community.”  

To start the yearlong celebration, CASA 20th will launch the Seeds of Hope Society, focused on increasing community support of the Children’s Advocacy Alliance by asking community members to pledge a $10 monthly donation for one year.  

The Children’s Advocacy Alliance of North Central Arkansas is an independent nonprofit organization serving Faulkner, Van Buren, Searcy, Pope and Conway counties.  Originally founded in 2000 as CASA of the 20th Judicial District, the Alliance oversees both the Central Arkansas Children’s Advocacy Center and CASA of the 20th Judicial District.  

The two programs work side by side to provide coordinated guidance, treatment and support for child victims of abuse and neglect, from the initial investigation of abuse to their placement in a safe, permanent home. 

For more information on the Seeds of Hope Society, or other volunteer opportunities, contact Executive Director Tess Fletcher at 501-328-3347.

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