Thursday, October 22nd, CASA of Jackson County (Court Appointed Special Advocates) held it’s Fall Induction ceremony for new volunteers. These inductions occur 3-4 times per year and are an integral part of the fabric of what makes CASA so special to the lives of foster children in Jackson County. Frances Allsup, CASA’s Executive Director, speaks of the importance of the volunteer induction, “The induction is a major accomplishment for the volunteers as they take their oath of office and begin their journey of being a voice for children of neglect and abuse in Jackson County”.
According to Director Allsup, 57% of current foster children will need the help and guidance of a CASA volunteer. She says, “these amazing volunteers have given more than 15,700 hours of of service since January of this year. Twenty percent of the children served were either reunited or adopted into their “forever homes” through the help of this program.” Youth Court Judge, Hon. Sharon Sigalas, is a strong proponent of CASA and has been a tireless advocate for recruiting volunteers during her 16 years on the bench. She says, “CASA gives these children a familiar person to share their story with… a consistency in their life they don’t normally have. Every child needs someone they can trust. They represent the independent voice in the midst of CPS, DHS, Guardian Ad Litem personnel who have a specific job to do. CASA volunteers dive into all the non legal aspects of their life: needs, wants, school, home and other environments. They help the kids attain things that may be outside of the scope of the court such as holidays, birthdays, Back To School supplies, clothing etc..”
I asked Judge Sigalas how CASA helps her in her role as a Youth Court Judge, she replied that it helps her “think outside the box” for their needs and best interest, beyond all the legal items before her. She also credits the vast community support from partners like Chevron, Ingalls, Singing River Hospital System, Golden Nugget Casino, the Corvette Club and so many more, for putting on fundraisers and giving hands on support to CASA directly. Even with these great support partners, when Director Allsup was asked the question about the need for new volunteers, she responded, “Always! Our goal is to provide a voice for every child in foster care!”
CASA currently has a bank of just over 100 volunteers, but is that enough? Surely, what organization would love to have 100 volunteers, right? Well, not if you consider that in 2014 alone, there were over 2800 cases in Jackson County alone. But, don’t think for a minute that these CASA heros are ill equipped. Each Volunteer must be 21 or older. They must also complete the National CASA Pre-Service training and background checks to be eligible to become a CASA Volunteer. So if you are a willing, everyday citizen who has a heart for helping these foster children, there are over 300 foster children in Jackson County who need an advocate, a voice, a friend, a caring adult who will help them, assist them, pray for them, and sometimes just simply talk and listen to them as they make their journey through DHS and the Court System.
So how can you help? Get involved with one of the community partners or better yet, become a CASA volunteer. The next Pre-Service training will be held in January 2019 and the time to sign up is now. You can click this link to go directly to their website to sign up or call Executive Director Frances Allsup at (228) 762-7370 to get the details on becoming a CASA Volunteer. Jackson County CASA, Inc is a 501-c-3 non-profit organization that only spends a mere 7.78% of their budget for Administrative purposes. 88% of their budget focuses on recruiting, training and supervising volunteers as they advocate for abused & neglected children. Donations are always welcome and appreciated.
Frances Allsup, CASA Director
Honorable Sharon Sigalas, Youth Court Judge