Springdale, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Court Appointed Special Advocates take on extra cases while recruiting efforts go virtual.
Court Appointed Special Advocates are oftentimes one of the only stable figures in the life of a child who has been abused or neglected. And that hasn’t changed despite COVID-19 limiting how the advocates interact with the victims.
Carie O’Banion has help abused and neglected children for three years as a court-appointed special advocate through CASA of Northwest Arkansas.
“My goal really is to be a set of eyes and ears for the children that are involved in the case,” O’Banion said.
Normally, she meets regularly with the children she works with and that has not stopped during the pandemic.
“I’ve been able to get out and visit with all my kids in an outdoor setting, usually a porch or a deck, or going for a walk or going for a bike ride,” O’Banion said.
CASA’s flexibility is pivotal right now.
“During the last economic recession, 2007-2008, they saw a 10% increase of children coming into foster care,” CASA of NWA Director of Development Colleen Smith said.
All recruiting and training efforts for new advocates was quickly moved from in-person to online.
“That was a huge effort but it is absolutely necessary because we keep getting children that are coming into care. We have 598 children that we’re serving at this very moment,” Smith said.
They are helping these children in court and are also serving as a reliable adult in their lives.
“One of the questions at the meeting was name three adults in your life that you would feel comfortable asking questions or if you had a problem and I was one of the three people,” O’Banion said.
CASA of NWA needs more people to volunteer as advocates. People can also support CASA with a donation Typically, a third of CASA’s annual income comes from an event called Light of Hope presented by General Mills. Due to the pandemic, that event has been moved online on November 10th. For more information, click here.