CASA observes volunteer month, seeks more volunteers

News-DemocratOctober 4, 2013 

— October is Volunteer Month, and Court Appointed Special Advocate of Southwestern Illinois is in need of volunteers to help the children for whom it advocates.

Mechiko White, executive director of CASA at 1801 North Belt West, said the agency has more than 100 children who've been abused or neglected who are waiting for a CASA volunteer. And, she is optimistic that the community will step up and that need will be met.

"Our organization is based on the belief that every child has the right to a safe permanent home. There are approximately 100 days to Christmas. And we have 108 children who are waiting for volunteers. I know they would love to have a CASA volunteer in their Christmas stocking," White said.

CASA of Southwestern Illinois was developed in 1988 by Retired Judge Milton S. Wharton, along with Belleville area foster parents. Wharton could not be reached for comment.

"Our goal is to recruit, train and support the volunteers we need who will advocate for children in the court systems of St. Clair, Madison and Monroe counties. During the month of October, CASA wants to recruit more than 100 volunteers to serve as voices for children who are waiting," she said.

CASA volunteers "are everyday people, from all different backgrounds. They are students, teachers, parents, retirees, business executives, judges, lawyers, doctors -- everyone," White said.

Their role is to serve as a fact finder for the judge by thoroughly researching the background of each case assigned to him or her, and to get to know the child's every need, she said.

"In court, the CASA volunteer speaks for the child's best interest and the volunteer is the person who monitors the case to make sure that each child's needs are brought to a swift and appropriate conclusion," she said.

All volunteers must complete 30 hours of training and six hours of court supervision and pass the interview process and background checks.

"Judges rotate, caseworkers are assigned new and different cases. The CASA volunteer is, many times, the only consistent person in the child's life. That's why we deem the role they play as very important," White said.

For more information on how to volunteer, call W618-234-4278.

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