Cherokee County CASA advocate training begins Feb. 12
Training to become an advocate for children at the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cherokee County begins Feb. 12. CASA is located at 304 W. Keetoowah St. in Tahlequah. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – With a flex training beginning Feb. 12, officials with the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cherokee County hope to have more area residents help serve needy children by becoming advocates.
Liz Rainbolt, CASA advocate coordinator, said while CASA has 24 advocates there is always a need for more. “We just graduated three in November and we’re again starting in February, so we’re hoping to have more than that, but we lose a couple and gain, but we’re hovering at about 24 right now. If we had 100 volunteers I’d be great, but we would still be wanting more. More cases can be done. More kids can be served.”
The advocate role, Rainbolt said, is to “speak and be the voice for child in court.”
“What that means is they gather information about the child’s current situation. They don’t investigate what happened. That’s already been done because they’re now involved in the court…but what is their current situation? Are they in the best placement? They then gather that information and they put it all into a court report,” she said. “It’s an extra set of eyes independent from any Department of Human Services Child Welfare or Indian Child Welfare.”
Rainbolt said CASA’s trainings require 30 hours served in class, online and in court.
“We serve Adair County court, Cherokee County court and then two judges in tribal court on two different Fridays. We have them (volunteers) observe each court because they could get a case in any of them,” she said.
Aside from the required hours, Rainbolt said CASA deals with Cherokee and Native American children and requires advocates to have a “diversity day” when they tour the Cherokee Heritage Center. “Because we work with Cherokee children, Native American children…we do a diversity thing where we go out to the (Cherokee) heritage center, take the tour through the museum and so forth.”
After they complete the hours, Rainbolt said volunteers are sworn in as court officers by judges at the courts they serve.
Rainbolt said before becoming an advocate there is an application process, three background checks, reference letters and in-depth interviews that must me completed and passed. An applicant must also be 21 years old.
Rainbolt said she’s seen people who have full-time jobs and those who are retired become advocates. She added that advocates create their own schedules so that more people who want to become advocates can do so.
“The only thing they have to do is, I can’t change the dockets. They are during the week during the day. Meetings with Indian Child Welfare or meetings with the caseworkers they’re during the day, during the week. But other than that…it’s on their schedule,” she said.
She said it’s also important that potential advocates dedicate at least 18 months to the program.
“We do ask for commitment of 18 months or more because the longevity of the case statistically last about 18 months,” she said. “We really want a commitment. They’re there to be their (children) champion, their voice in court.”
For more information, visit www.cherokeecasa.org
or visit CASA on Facebook by searching “Cherokee CASA” or call 918-456-8788. For a list of Oklahoma CASA programs, visit www.oklahomacasa.org