Youth Service Bureau welcomes new CASA volunteers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 16, 2012

Last year, almost 300 Washington Parish children spent time in foster care, innocent victims of abuse, neglect and abandonment. The Youth Service Bureau’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program provides advocacy and a voice for quality treatment and services for these children. 22nd Judicial District Court Judge William “Rusty” Knight recently welcomed a group of 15 new CASA volunteers from Washington and St. Tammany parishes who have been thoroughly trained in the juvenile court process and how to speak up for the community’s abused and neglected youth as CASA volunteers.

“It’s all about the kids,” said Knight. “Whatever is in the best interest of the child is absolutely what we need to do. Many times, we don’t have the child’s best interest stated to us, unless there’s a CASA volunteer involved. That’s why what CASA does is absolutely critical.”

“It is a pleasure to welcome these new advocates who have made a commitment to get involved and make a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children,” said CASA Director Mary Slazer. “Our CASA staff and professionals in the field of child welfare taught the new CASA volunteers about child protective services, the serious issues faced by children and families caught up in the child welfare system, such as substance abuse and mental illness, and resources available in the community to help families and children.”

The new CASA volunteers are Betty Ann Tullos and Patsy Ritchie of Washington Parish, and Melanie Comeaux, Kelly Crouch, Terry Cruthirds-Goldsboro, Lynn Gee, Paul Guth, Ann Hall, Laurie Lester, Susan Nelson, Jackie Overton, Florence Papa, Laura Regusa, A.J. Sherrard and Cynthia Thomas of St. Tammany Parish.

Youth Service Bureau CASA is looking for Washington Parish residents with a heart for children to speak up for innocent victims of abuse or neglect. These children range from infants born exposed to drugs, to teenagers who have been abandoned and find themselves in the system through no fault of their own. Each of these children would benefit from a trained, caring volunteer advocate to be their voice in court.

The next Youth Service Bureau CASA training for new volunteers will be held in early 2013. The application process is currently under way. To apply to become a CASA volunteer, the applicant must be at least 21 years of age and a high school graduate, have no involvement with the child protection system, and must complete a thorough criminal background screening. Trainees participate in a comprehensive training covering issues particular to the needs of abused and neglected children. There is no particular professional experience needed. There is no charge for the training, and the Youth Service Bureau provides all materials.

The Youth Service Bureau is a private, non-profit United Way Partner Agency and a Louisiana Children’s Trust Fund Agency, also supported by the generosity of corporations, local businesses, government grants, private foundations, and individual donations. For more information about the CASA Volunteer application process or to make a donation, call Dana Wolcott, Youth Service Bureau CASA Recruiter/Trainer, at 985-649-4092.