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Volunteer advocates changing lives of abused and neglected children

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Apr 26, 2017 at 4:52 PM

If you’ve noticed the clusters of blue and silver pinwheels spinning outside courthouses and public buildings around the Tri-Cities and and wondered what they are all about, the answer is intended to give you pause.

Beyond the carefree, childhood pastimes the pinwheels bring to mind, those “pinwheel gardens” are there as a reminder that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, that hundreds of local children are removed from their homes every year because of neglect and abuse, and that volunteer advocates are needed to improve the lives of those of children.

Court Appointed Special Advocates Northeast Tennessee, the nonprofit, volunteer organization that recruits, screens, trains and supports community volunteers to advocate for local child victims of abuse and neglect, has spent the month on a Pinwheels for Prevention campaign.

Last year CASA volunteer advocated for more than 300 local child abuse and neglect victims in Johnson City and Washington, Unicoi and Greene counties. And the CASA organization is perpetually in need of more volunteers to help more children.

Reserved by judges for appointment to children in the greatest need of their assistance, CASA volunteers investigate children’s home settings and circumstances, interview the children to determine their preferences, and return their findings and their recommendations to the courts to assist in the determination of the safest and most beneficial placements for the children.

With training and support from the CASA organization, the volunteers provide abused and neglected children a voice in court proceedings and ensure their needs are identified.

Their primary goal is to see that the child is in a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible and their guiding belief is that every child is entitled to a safe and stable home.

CASA’s desire is to provide a volunteer advocate to every local child who is removed from their home because of abuse or neglect. Its volunteer recruitment and training efforts are continuous.

And its Pinwheels for Prevention campaign is there to remind the community of the important role CASA volunteers play in lives abused and neglected.

“When we all come together beautiful change is possible,” Whitney McLaughlin, executive director CASA of Northeast Tennessee, said.

McLaughlin encouraged anyone interested in learning more about CASA and its volunteer advocate training to call her at 423-461-3500. More information about CASA can also be found online at www.casanetn.org.

CASA’s next volunteer orientation session will begin at 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, in the CASA office located in the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce building at 603 E. Market St..

If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at 423-722-0538 or P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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