“We started first in St. Clair County, working with District Judge Robert Minor,” said Amber Uptain, volunteer program coordinator for Tri-County CASA.
Uptain said there are currently four children comprising three cases.
“One volunteer handles one case, even if there are multiple children involved,” she said.
Uptain said Tri-County CASA held volunteer training in October, and the volunteers were sworn in in November.
“We will see Judge Minor Monday,” she said. “We have five volunteers in St. Clair County and one in Talladega County waiting for cases.”
Talladega native Jerryl Gaither is the first Talladega County CASA volunteer.
“I recently retired and moved back to Talladega from Atlanta,” he said. “Georgia had a youth diversion panel that I served on for four years.”
Gaither said the youth diversion panel mainly worked with children ages 10-16, dealing with minor first-time offenses such as stealing or vandalism.
“We helped the kids understand there are consequences to their actions, and assigned them things like community service or writing a letter of apology.”
Gaither said he read about CASA approximately six months ago.
“I went through the independent study training and was sworn in in November,” he said. “I will work with District Court Judge Ryan Rumsey from Sylacauga.”
Uptain and Gaither met with Rumsey Thursday.
“Judge Rumsey seemed very interested and supportive of Tri-County CASA and our mission,” she said. “We are in need of more Talladega County volunteers and look forward to working with him in the future.”
CASA training is free, however, there is no reimbursement for gas or time spent. It is 30 hours of training, with the next training session in February 2014.
CASA volunteers go through all state, federal and CAN background checks. They are interviewed and screened by trained CASA staff. Once they are accepted to become a CASA volunteer they must complete the 30 hours of classroom training.
Volunteers are required to have 12 hours of continuing education yearly, which is provided, and there are online course options available, too.
A CASA volunteer serves as an adjunct to the system, ensuring that the system works well for the child. The child is already involved in the process and his or her interests must be considered by a number of persons under the present system.
CASA volunteers and social workers tend to be in close communication and share information on most cases. CASA volunteers do not deliver services but may locate and recommend them for a child or family. They often have input regarding the development of a case plan or may recommend a revision, but they do not formulate the plan.
CASA is a nonprofit organization that relies on donations, grants and volunteers to keep the program going.
For more information, visit www.casaforchildren.org or email 3county firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Elsie Hodnett at email@example.com.