CASA of Campbell County executive director Jan Jones said the organization has six court-appointed special advocates who have been sworn in, two of whom are not actively working cases currently due to family or health reasons. There are three more advocates who are training, but the need is even greater.

“We would need 20 advocates to be able to work the 40 cases that we have that’s on a waiting list, and that would be them working two cases each,” Jones said at the South Campbell County Rotary Club meeting on Tuesday afternoon at LaFollette United Methodist Church.

And one case can involve multiple children, Jones said.

“National CASA guidelines do say initially, you cannot work over two cases,” Jones said. “Now with that being said, there is an exception letter we can do that will allow the advocates to work more than two cases, but of course, we want them to get really to where they’ve worked several cases to where they know more, get their feet in the door a little bit better until we start handing them more cases off. But there’s always that need for volunteers. I cannot stress enough how much and how rewarding this program can be. We currently have about 40 children on the waiting list in Campbell County that are waiting on a CASA advocate, and statistics show that a child that has had a CASA in their lives is less likely to ever go back into the juvenile court system. So I strongly urge anyone, if they’re looking for a way to volunteer, CASA is an absolute wonderful program.”

Cases can involve children from newborn until they turn 18 years old, she said. “At one point, we did have 60-some cases,” Jones said. “Some of those children did age out of the program, and unfortunately, they had never had a CASA to work their case.” People can also volunteer by serving on the organization’s board of directors or working in fundraising efforts.

“We advocate for the abused and neglected children who are going through the juvenile court system here in Campbell County that have been removed from their homes for abuse and neglect and placed in foster care,” Jones said. “In order to become an advocate, we go through an extensive process of doing an application. We do a thorough background check. We do interviews with, of course, references that’s provided to us. We do a 30-plus-hour training course, which consists of several modules. We do a court appearance. We take them before they ever go through the process of being sworn in. We let them sit through court for approximately three hours to see how the court system works.” Most of the organization’s funding comes from grants, she said. “Once they go through all of this, then they’re ready to be sworn in,” she said. “And we set a court date with the juvenile judge, and they’re appointed and sworn in to then work the cases. When they are sworn in, they agree to at least stay active for one year. Many advocates, of course, go above and beyond that.” It was said that one person had served as an advocate for more than two decades.

“You do a thorough investigation on that case,” Jones said. “You get to know that child. You have access to meet anybody associated with the case. So you can reach out to teachers, physicians, anybody that’s associated, and when you do your thorough investigation, then you do a report in writing that’s presented to the court that goes to the judge as a recommendation of what you feel like is the child’s best interest. So you are strictly, you’re there basically as a second set of eyes and ears for the court system. There might be things that have been looked over or something may have fell through the crack and sometimes advocates will pick up on that where no one else has or can. So you are there strictly for that child. You’re a voice in court for that child.”

The CASA Bluegrass Breakdown event will take place July 23 from 5 to 8:30 p.m., at Ball Farm Event Center, she said. “We’d love to have y’all come out and be with us that evening,” Jones, who also became a member of the rotary club during the meeting, said. “Tickets are on sale now. We do have table sponsorships available if anyone’s interested in that.”