Every year more than 500,000 abused and neglected children are in need of safe, permanent, and nourishing homes. Too many spend years moving from one temporary home to another. They have no family to call their own. They are more likely than other children to face homelessness, unemployment, and even prison as adults.
Jackson County has received record-breaking numbers of children in its care. That’s where CASA steps in. As trained advocates, CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to be a voice for these children in court. The result is that they are placed into safe, loving homes where they can thrive! Jackson County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is launching a campaign this month to recruit volunteers and awareness during April, which happens to be National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The minimum age to volunteer is 21. All volunteers must successfully pass background checks and the screening process, including completing the National CASA Pre-Service Training provided by Jackson County CASA.
Jackson County CASA Executive Director Frances Allsup sat down with Our Mississippi Home to tell us more about this important campaign:
What do CASA volunteers do?
Volunteers are the voice for children who have been abused or neglected. They conduct an independent investigation to gain a clear understanding of the child/youth’s needs and situations. Identifies and advocates for the best interest of the child/youth while becoming a source of support for the child/youth. Volunteers appear in court with recommendations centering around the child’s best interest. Testimony is provided when necessary. Volunteers meet with the child in person at least once a month. In addition, volunteers meet with teachers, counselors, therapists, social workers, and any other agency or group associated with the case. This ensures the child’s needs are being voiced and met. Trained Volunteers participate in 12 hours of continued education to promote quality advocacy for the children. Children experience many different faces in an ever-changing world as they journey through the system. Volunteers become a constant in a child’s life, a face they learn to trust.
How can the community help raise awareness about this critical issue?
Learn more about the CASA mission, invite us to speak so that we can share with the private and public sectors of our community. The more awareness we raise, the more children in our county will be served. Volunteers are desperately needed. As of March 1, 2022, Jackson County has 273 children in custody. Sadly, Jackson County has the highest number in the state.
What will you be doing in April for this campaign?
Proclamations will be adopted by the Jackson County Board of Supervisors on Monday, April 4, proclaiming the month of April as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. Followed by the City of Ocean Springs, City of Gautier, City of Pascagoula, and the City of Moss Point will proclaim and adopt this same proclamation on Tuesday evening, April 5.
Anything else you’d like readers to know?
Jackson County CASA, Inc. was established in 1985. We were the first program in the state of Mississippi to form, and the longevity of our program speaks to our success. For 37 years, protecting child victims has been our driving focus. We currently serve 80%, and we need your help to serve 100% of the children in custody. Won’t you help us?
We understand that CASA is not for everyone. If you can’t personally volunteer, there are other ways to help. As a non-profit, 501-c-3, you can donate directly to Jackson County CASA via our website or by check. Your gift is tax-deductible. Another wonderful way to help us is to spread awareness of our mission and needs. A child is waiting. You can “Change a Child’s Story.”
“Wear Blue Wednesday” is another way to support Jackson County CASA and the community. They invite everyone to wear blue every Wednesday during April to shine a light on child abuse awareness.