JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The National CASA Association awarded a $40,000 grant to CASA of the 2nd Judicial District.
Executive Director of CASA 2nd Judicial District Donna Bowyer said this money will be used to serve more children in rural counties in Northeast Arkansas.
"Because of this money we have hired a full-time person for the rural counties," Bowyer said. "This is going to be Greene County, Poinsett County and Mississippi County in our district. This person will be responsible for recruiting new volunteers."
Bowyer said more volunteers is something they need now.
"The goal is to bring in 15 new volunteers," Bowyer said. "This will serve 50 additional children because of this grant. The first focus of this grant will be Greene County because there are 280 children in foster care in Greene County."
Bowyer said their volunteers act as an advocate for the children in court.
"The volunteers we recruit are officers of the court," Bowyer said. "That means they are sworn in and they go through training, background checks. They are sworn in by a judge saying, 'I will keep this case confidential and I will be your boots on the ground to find out everything I can about this family and these children so that I can report it back to you, the judge, and then you can make the best decision possible for these children."
Bowyer said if they meet all their goals, then additional funds will come. She said they can get an additional $40,000 next year. While this additional money is great, she says there's still a huge need they're struggling to meet.
"In Northeast Arkansas, there are 800 children in foster care," Bowyer said. "Two years ago there were maybe 600. So, even though we're recruiting more volunteers and we've doubled our budget in the last three years and doubled the number of children served, the numbers continue to increase."
Bowyer said it takes $1,050 in their program to serve one child for a year because of staff costs, training and all the many things that it entails.
"The National CASA standard is $1,150," Bowyer said. "So, we're below that. So, we're doing a good job of utilizing the funds that we have. We just need more volunteers and more funds."
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, Bowyer said step one is having a conversation.
"Normally the person interested would come in and talk to someone on our staff," Bowyer said. "That way the person can make sure they understand what we do. Then they'll be asked to fill out an application. We want to get to know the people that want to be volunteers and see where they're coming from. What their life experiences have been and how we think that they could best serve these children."
Bowyer said a full interview comes after the application process.
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