JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Advocates for children got some help on Wednesday.
Each month a lunch and learn is offered to Court Appointed Special Advocates volunteers covering different topics that might help them.
Wednesday's topic of discussion was on the counseling group Life Strategies.
Community Marketing Coordinator for Life Strategies Paige Pickering spoke to the group about the organization and answered the volunteer's questions.
Advocate Coordinator for CASA second judicial district Angela Tate said the children they represent are often already familiar with Life Strategies.
"A lot of our children, a lot of our families are involved with life strategies through orders of the court or by choices of their own," Tate said. "And so the way that interacts with CASA is that our children that we advocate for that are in the foster care system, they're normally provided services of therapy. Life Strategies does a lot of that therapy. So, what we're going to try to learn today is how CASA and Life Strategies can work together to get that information, best practices and ways to receive the information, best ways to communicate and what Life Strategies offers. We may not even know all the services that they offer."
Tate says CASA is present all over the state.
"Arkansas does have a CASA in every county," Tate said. "Every county is represented by a CASA program. The volunteers are able to go into the foster home and really visit and make sure their needs are being met. That everything is falling into place and kind of work alongside DHS, the children's attorney, and even the parent's counsel. To make sure everyone is working together for the best interest of these children. Such as medical needs, therapy needs, glasses, tutoring, school and anything you can think of. CASA is going to work to make sure those things are being done."
Tate said what the CASA organization needs most is more volunteers.
"We are serving about 50%," Tate said. "What that means is of all the children that are in foster care, half of these kids - someone is having to say okay, you can have an advocate. You can have a voice and then that other child doesn't get that special need met. Because we don't have those volunteers available. We would love to see our number raise. Our goal is 100%. So that every family who goes through the DHS system has that extra set of eyes and ears on that child. And has that voice in court to make sure their needs are met."
Jonesboro resident Felicia Ross has been a CASA volunteer since July of 2017.
"I really got involved with CASA because there are a lot of children in this entire state who get left behind," Ross said. "The case workers have a huge load. Imagine them having 90 kids they have to watch for. So, if I can be that voice for those one, two, or three children I feel like that makes a big difference and keeps them from falling through the cracks. Just to be with them through their whole ordeal in foster care, I feel like I'm a shining light for them."
Ross said being a part of a child's life that really needs you is one of the most important things you can do.
"Being a child's voice is just remarkable," Ross said. "It's just seeing their faces when they see me and knowing that I can go to court, that when I do a court report that the judge actually looks at that and takes my opinion into consideration. I think that's the biggest thing. Because, like I said, social workers have a big job to do. And if I can help them do their job a little bit I feel like I'm making a difference in the world."
Ross said she wanted to learn more about Life Strategies to better help the kids she represented.
"I really want to know how the kids go through their counseling sessions," Ross said. "I've not been able to sit in a child's session, and I hope I learn what the counselors are talking to them about and what resources life strategies has. Because as a CASA volunteer I'm always trying to find those resources. I'm always trying to find extra help to get that child through life and get them through the situation that they're in now."
Tate said she wanted her volunteers to walk away with a lot of useful information.
"My goal is for the volunteers that are here today is to learn the best practices about communication," Tate said. "How to get the information they need from Life Strategies. I want our volunteers to learn how to work best with Life Strategies. And then I want everyone to be aware of the services that they offer. That they may be able to advocate in court for these kids."
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