Submitted by Kenya Johnson, Director of Scioto County CASA
Juvenile court received a grant to begin a program for children who need a voice in the court system.
The CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate)/ GAL (Guardian ad Litem) Program is a national program that has been in existence since 1977. It is a court-based, non-profit organization that recruits and trains community volunteers to become Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) for children who are involved in the court system.
Once trained, the volunteer will be appointed by Judge Alan Lemons to advocate for the best interests of children. A volunteer is assigned to cases where children are alleged to be abused, neglected, or dependent. A CASA/GAL is an official part of the judicial proceedings, working alongside attorneys and social workers. The volunteer will work to gather information and make recommendations regarding the child(ren)’s best interest to the judge presiding over the case. A CASA/GAL will also be responsible for monitoring case progress and reporting back to the court regularly. While handling only one or two cases at the same time, a volunteer has time to thoroughly explore the history and circumstances of each assigned case.
The opiate crisis has significantly increased the number of abuse, neglect and dependency cases that the Scioto County Juvenile Court system handles.
Judge Alan Lemons, recognized that our children needed additional support, so he reached out to the State CASA/GAL Organization. Doug Stephens, Executive Director of Ohio CASA, began meeting with Judge Lemons along with key players to review the number of cases, and types of cases that were overwhelming our court system. The need became clear. Juvenile Court received a grant from New CASA Startup Funds to begin the Scioto County CASA/GAL Program.
Kenya Johnson was hired as the Director of Scioto County CASA.
“We are currently recruiting community volunteers to begin Flex-Training in late January,” Johnson said.
Qualifications to volunteer for CASA/GAL are: you must be 21 years of age; submit an application; participate in a personal interview with CASA staff; provide 3 references; complete a national/state and local criminal records check; complete 30 hours of pre-service training; etc. Once these requirements have been met, a volunteer will be sworn in to advocate for a child in court which could continue up to two years.
As the opiate crisis in Scioto County continues to rise, the need for our children to have a voice in court proceedings will also rise. Children feel powerless. Let’s give them a voice. You can become a CASA volunteer. If you are interested in being a part of this initiative contact Kenya Johnson 740-355-8275.
Contact Kenya Johnson 740-355-8275