- Sara Doan, Northeast Arkansas News
CASA celebrates 25 years of serving foster care children in northeast Arkansas
JONESBORO, Ark- Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Second Judicial District is celebrating something big.
CASA is celebrating 25 years of serving northeast Arkansas.
The non-profit is a vital member of the community as advocates give a voice to foster care children in the region.
“Twenty-five years is a huge milestone. And we’re so appreciative of the more than 1,700 volunteer advocates that have made a difference in the lives of more than 4,800 children throughout northeast Arkansas over the past 25 years,” says CASA Second Judicial District director, Jeremy Biggs.
CASA serves five counties in the region.
One goes through a training process before becoming a volunteer.
Advocate Berry Bryant first got involved with casa three years ago.
He says volunteers can talk to everyone in a child's life, including their teachers, neighbors and, doctors.
Bryant says advocates try to give a child comfort during the trouble time.
“DHS and the attorneys they go in every day- or often and see the kids. But they’re really fishing for information about ‘how’s mom doing? Or how's dad doing’. So, the CASA volunteer is the child’s advocate. When we go in, we go ‘how are you doing?’”
Since the pandemic began, the percentage of children in foster care in Arkansas increased 9%, which makes the need for additional advocates more important than ever.
“Currently, we are assigned to more than 230 children in foster care and, our volunteer force is 94 strong,” Biggs says.
During his time with CASA, Bryants advocated for almost 20 children.
Something that he does not take lightly.
“I think about all those children we’ve helped in the 25 years and how many lives we’ve touched. You get to be friends with them, and you know you watch them grow and develop,” the advocate says. And you try to make a difference in their life. And you hope you make an impact because they need positive reinforcement.”
CASA of the Second Judicial District plans to welcome over a dozen new volunteers in their training next month.
However, they are always looking to add more advocates to their team.