OSAGE COUNTY — Franklin County Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Executive Director Glenda Volmert announced on Saturday that with expansion into Osage County, the group’s …
OSAGE COUNTY — Franklin County Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Executive Director Glenda Volmert announced on Saturday that with expansion into Osage County, the group’s name has been changed to CASA of Mideast Missouri.
“There has been a request for CASA to come to Osage County for many years, especially after we expanded from Franklin (founded in 2006) to Gasconade in 2016,” said Volmert, noting that all three counties are in the 20th judicial circuit. “Many of the same Juvenile Court professionals work in both Gasconade and Osage counties, giving them experience with our program. They wanted the children of Osage County to receive the same benefits as the other two counties. It was never a matter of if we would expand to Osage; it was more a question of when. Once we felt we had a good grasp on how things were going in Gasconade, we started to look for funding sources to expand in Osage. We wanted to make sure we had funding, staff, and community support before we expanded.”
CASA primarily consists of volunteers who advocate for children suffering abuse and neglect and who are under the protection of the juvenile court. Each volunteer interacts with children in foster care and develops options with the court for a permanent solution, which often includes reunification with the child’s natural parents, adoption, or guardianship.
CASA of Mideast Missouri officially began its efforts in Osage County on Tuesday, Feb. 6, with an informational meeting for potential volunteers at Ely Manor in Linn.
“Our highly-trained volunteers advocate for a child’s needs until they are living in a safe and permanent home,” said Volmert, noting that, on average, Osage County has 10-15 children under the protection of the courts and in foster care on one day. “We would love to have a CASA volunteer available to represent each of those children. Our goal for this first training class is to swear in five new volunteers from each county we serve, giving us 15 new volunteer advocates to appoint to children in foster care.”
Pre-service training — a combination of classroom and online training — will begin the last week of February. The training is a total of 30 hours, with in-person/classroom training occurring one evening a week for five consecutive weeks. Training occurs three times a year.
CASA volunteers are required to be 21 years or older and have their GED or equivalent. They will gain the rest of their experience in training. “This is truly an organization made up of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, simply by spending time getting to know the child,” said Volmert.
Those interested in being a child advocate need to complete an online application at www.casamideastmo.org. The deadline is Friday, Feb. 9.
Volmert said the next step is the interview process, which gives the potential volunteer an opportunity to ask questions of CASA staff and tell them more about themselves. If the candidate is still interested in being an advocate, they can begin the training process at the end of February.
“It’s important to know that there is no obligation or commitment to stay with CASA until you are appointed to a child,” said Volmert. “I urge people to keep learning so they can make an educated decision about volunteering.”
Once training is complete and background checks and references are successful, then the volunteers are sworn in by the Juvenile Court Judge.
Volmert noted the volunteer experience typically takes about 10-15 hours a month. “We ask that a volunteer stay involved until the child/ren they are appointed find a safe and loving home and the juvenile court case closes, an average of 18-24 months,” she added. “Over half of our volunteers work full-time and have families of their own. It’s very flexible, allowing them to continue to take vacations and continue with their hobbies or other commitments. Each volunteer is provided a CASA staff member to help guide them through their case and is available to fill in if needed. “We train you before you start to give you the tools to be an good advocate and will continue to support you every step of the way.”
As a member of Missouri CASA, the non-profit organization applied for and received an expansion grant, allowing volunteer coordinator staff to increase from part-time to full-time. The one-year grant is renewable for up to 50% a second year. CASA of Mideast Missouri also received funding through the Fraternal Order of Eagles to assist with additional expenses such as community outreach.
Currently, 24 CASA programs serve 28 of Missouri’s 46 judicial circuits.
For more information, call the CASA office at 636-583-4422.