Court Appointed Special Advocates of Southern Oklahoma is in need of volunteers who can dedicate time to work with children facing abuse or neglect.
CASA volunteers fill a necessary role by acting as a researcher, protector and confidant for children going through juvenile deprived proceedings. CASA Executive director Ruanne DiMiceli said the need for child advocates is constant.
“They come into the court system deprived and abused and the CASA volunteer is there to research the child’s situation, make recommendations to the judge and monitor it until the child is placed in a safe and permanent home,” DiMiceli said.
Currently, CASA of Southern Oklahoma has just over 50 volunteers serving Carter, Johnston, Love, Marshall and Murray counties. The organization has advocated for 187 children since Jan. 1.  Anyone older than 21 with no felony convictions or charges of child abuse can become an advocate.
“They’re strictly volunteers, they’re not paid for this,” DiMiceli said. “They’re concerned citizens who want to make a difference. And they do make a difference.”     
Volunteers train for about 30 hours. DiMiceli said the training can be done at the CASA office in Ardmore or at the volunteer’s home, depending on their needs. Training is usually one-on-one and can be set up to work around the volunteer’s schedule.
“We have people coming in on their lunch hour, we can also do it before work or after,” DiMiceli said. “We try to accommodate.”
After training, volunteers are assigned to a child’s case. Then, they use their training to research the child’s situation as an appointee of the court. Child advocates visit the child they’ve been assigned to at least once a month and speaks with family members, social workers, schools, doctors and anyone else familiar with that child’s situation.
“They’re the judge’s eyes and ears, so there is a little bit of footwork involved,” DiMiceli said. “They can also do phone calls. Depending on what the situation is, they may feel they need to visit more often.”
 DiMiceli said the training prepares CASAs to face different scenarios, learn about a child’s home life and encourage parents to cooperate.
 “Sometimes the CASA is the only person through this whole process that’s a constant in that child’s life,” DiMiceli said. “They may be new to a different foster home and they may have different case workers during the time they’re in the court system, but the CASA stays the same.”
CASA of Southern Oklahoma can be reached at (580)226-0009.