CASA program is committed to fighting child abuse

April 23, 2015
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Speakers during the CASA Blue Ribbon Ceremony were Rachel Sollner of the Department of Human Services Office; Oceana County CASA Coordinator Susan Denny; Guardian Ad Litem Attorney Julie Springstead; Oceana County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jeffrey Kabot; and Oceana County Probate and Family Judge Brad Lambrix.

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

HART — Oceana County CASA is focused on fighting child abuse and neglect, and it is in need of more advocates and foster families to help.

The local CASA (court-appointed special advocates) organization had a Blue Ribbon Ceremony Thursday afternoon, April 23, in front of the Oceana County Courthouse, in conjunction with April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Blue ribbons were tied on the step railings to represent the many neglected and abused children in Oceana County, as well as each speaker’s commitment to child abuse prevention on behalf of the office they represent.

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Guardian Ad Litem Attorney Julie Springstead addresses the audience.

Speakers were Oceana County Probate and Family Judge Brad Lambrix; Oceana County CASA Coordinator Susan Denny; Rachel Sollner of the Department of Human Services Office; Oceana County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jeffrey Kabot; and Guardian Ad Litem Attorney Julie Springstead.

Denny said there were 70 ribbons, representing 70 Oceana County children who have been involved in the program in the last two years due to abuse and/or neglect. With the large amount of children in need of help, more advocates and foster homes are needed. Sollner said there are only four foster homes in Oceana County.

Becoming a CASA volunteer does not require any particular education level. The advocate must be at least 21 years old and has to go through an extensive background check. They are then sent to a 35-hour training and must receive 12 additional hours of training each year.

The CASA organization provides abused and neglected children in the family court system individualized advocacy for their best interests through the trained adult volunteers. The advocates — empowered directly by the courts — offer judges the critical information they need to ensure that each child’s rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care.

“They are there as the eyes and the ears of the court on behalf of the children,” said Lambrix.

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