CASA program shelters children from abuse

With over 34,000 reports of child abuse and neglect made in Arizona each year, the system is becoming overburdened with an increasing amount of children going to foster care. Somebody partial to these children's safety needs to be involved to check on them after their lives are turned upside down by things like drug busts, courts, their parents going to jail and family disputes.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers are continually being sought to become advocates in the court for abused and neglected children in Navajo County.

CASA is a national program of trained, court-appointed volunteers who advocate in the best interest of abused and neglected children. The state program has an office in every county, providing a voice for children across Arizona.

What does having a CASA mean to an abused child? Imagine what it would be like to lose your parents, not because of something you did, but because they can't - or won't - take care of you. Now, into your life come dozens of strangers: police, foster parents, social workers, judges, lawyers, and more. Having a CASA means having by your side a trained and committed adult who has been appointed by a judge to watch over and advocate for your best interests. That CASA will make sure you don't get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in an inappropriate group or foster home. They will be there for you until your case is closed. It can make the difference between homelessness and a safe home, between dropping out and completing school, between unemployment and success, between jail and becoming a productive member of society.

The CASA program encompasses 25 volunteer advocates in Navajo County, representing over 135 children in foster care, said Debbie Campbell, a local CASA volunteer advocate.

"It only takes a few hours a week, and only requires going to court about four times a year, and may be done by those working full-time," she said.

A two-day training is provided to those interested, considering they pass a polygraph, fingerprint and background check.

CASAs are the only volunteers that are appointed by a judge and empowered to stand up for an abused or neglected child in court. CASA invites you to learn more about becoming a CASA in your community and hopes you decide to join their family of volunteers, everyday people, who are committed to improving children's lives.

For further information on CASA in Navajo County, contact Kirk Grugel at (928) 524 ­ 4135.

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