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20,000 Tennessee children need advocates 'to be for the child'

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Jun 22, 2017 at 7:45 PM

Court Appointed Special Advocates is on a statewide campaign to triple the number of trained volunteers assisting abused and neglected children in Tennessee courts.

According to CASA Tennessee, an estimated 20,000 abused and neglected children who come under the jurisdiction of state’s juvenile courts through no fault of their own could benefit from a CASA volunteer.

Statewide, 1,444 CASA volunteers have been assigned by the courts to help 5,250 children, including an estimated 50 CASA volunteers serving 300 abused and neglected children in three area counties served by CASA of Northeast Tennessee,

With extensive training and support from CASA, the volunteers are investigating children’s home settings and personal wishes, giving the children a voice as they move through the judicial system, and ultimately helping the courts secure safe, permanent homes and better futures for the children.

To help the 20,000 Tennessee children who are without CASA volunteers, Tennessee CASA Executive Director Lynne Farrar said three times the current number of volunteers are needed “to be for the child.”

“The national slogan for CASA is: ‘I am for the child,’ which is why our campaign will ask the people of Tennessee to be for the child,” she said. “We want the idea of being for the child synonymous with CASA volunteerism.

“We hope, over time, this will be a widely recognized volunteer opportunity for people across the state who have the desire to make a positive impact on the life of a child.”

Farrar said being a CASA volunteer is one of the most rewarding and meaningful journeys a volunteer can make. “CASA volunteers speak up for a child during a traumatic time in their lives. This makes all the difference,” she said.

Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, said, “Studies have shown mitigating the impact of adverse childhood experiences directly improves health outcomes for children across their lifespan.

“By advocating for the needs of our most vulnerable children, CASA volunteers have the opportunity to change lives and communities for the better,” O’Neal said.

Whitney McLaughlin, executive director of CASA of Northeast Tennessee, said the goal of the local Be for the Child campaign is to add 15 new child advocates over the next year to the base of 150 CASA volunteers that has been built up over the past 15 years.

No experience and no background in law or law enforcement is needed, McLaughlin said. “We provide the training.”

“The mission of the local CASA program is to provide you the training and the tools necessary. We encourage those looking to make a real difference in the life of a child to contact our office at [email protected] or visit BeForTheChild.org to sign up or request more information.”

Volunteer orientation sessions are held periodically at the CASA of Northeast Tennessee offices at 603 E. Market St., Suite No. 2. More information about the program can be found online at www.casanetn.org or by calling the local CASA office at 423-461-3500.

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 [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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