Photo by Jay Huff
Court Appointed Special Advocates, from left: program director Stephanie Miller, Jeanie Gilbert, Michelle Grier, Rebecca Steele, Barb McIntosh, Pat Cooper, Dawn Lydic, Tony Marinez and Lincoln County Judge Kent Turnbull.
Seven special advocates for children in child welfare system were sworn in recently during a brief but warm ceremony at the Lincoln County Courthouse.
The swearing in marks the culmination of nearly two years of efforts by organizers of a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program in Lincoln County.
The volunteer advocates will be the front persons for children, advocating for the benefit of children who are involved in social service and court cases. In many cases, the advocates become the most constant adult presence in the childís life.
Each advocate has completed nearly 40 hours of advocate training and will maintain a training schedule annually.
With more than 100 kids in the court systems who could use a court appointed advocate, the hope is that this is just the start. Ideally, advocates will be trained and added to the staff to help keep up with the need.
Following the oath the seven advocates received plaques and certificates from the programís executive director, Stephanie Miller.
Advocate Pat Cooper has been onboard since the conception of the program. She said that Miller, the sole staff person, depends on volunteers to help her with such things as fund raising and meeting potential volunteers.
Advocate Michelle Grier has a bachelorís degree in psychology and has worked with the rape and domestic abuse program. She said that the advocates have variety of experiences and share their knowledge.
In addition to their skills, CASA training provided understanding of cultural differences and how to digest and review background information.
Funding for CASA comes from grants and donations. A few local charities have offered some ongoing funds, Miller said.
The organization is in need of more advocates and volunteers to help with fundraising and public outreach. Another training class will be held this fall. Miller said the goal is to have a spring and a fall training session every year.
Those wishing to help can contact Stephanie Miller at 308-520-0557 or Lincolncountycasa@yahoo.com.
This report was first published June 27 in the print edition of the North Platte Buleltin.