Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma is a CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) agency. Headquartered in Claremore, Oklahoma, the organization supports CASA volunteers in both the 12th Judicial District (Rogers, Mayes, and Craig Counties) and the13th Judicial District (Ottawa and Delaware Counties). To better serve the 13th Judicial District, CANO (Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma) recently opened a branch office in Miami, Oklahoma.
The mission of Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma (CANO) is to speak for the best interest of abused and neglected children in the courts of Northeastern Oklahoma. We recruit and support quality volunteer representation for children with a goal to ensure each child is placed in a safe, permanent, and nurturing home.
Why is CASA so important?
In court proceedings involving abused and neglected children, CASA Volunteers provide an unbiased, child-focused point of view that is vital to help determine what situations will allow a child to thrive. In most cases, the children represented by CASA Volunteers have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. A judge then must decide if a child can safely return home to his or her family or if a permanent home must be arranged to keep a child healthy and safe. When considering the actions of parents or child welfare agencies, it’s the child who has the most at stake and their needs can often be overlooked. The CASA Volunteer and organization acts as the voice for the child to ensure their best interests are in the forefront.
What is a CASA Volunteer?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a community volunteer who is recruited, trained and supervised by a CASA Advocate Supervisor and appointed by a Judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children during a dependency case. CASA Volunteers spend an average of 10-15 hours a month advocating for a child and the average case is one and a half years. The CASA Volunteer gathers information from those who know the child best and acts as the “eyes and ears” for the Judge during the child’s time in foster care.
Why is a CASA Volunteer needed?
The CASA Volunteer is often the only one constant person advocating for the minor(s) throughout the duration of the case, often holding the child’s history, and providing a caring and supportive person that the child can trust. The on-going presence of a CASA volunteer helps prevent children from languishing in foster care while helping to ensure they end up with a safe and permanent home.
How are CASA Volunteers assigned to cases?
Once a child has been removed from his/her home due to unsafe living conditions, court hearings will be held to determine if the child should remain out of the home. At the dispositional hearing, the parent/s will be given a treatment plan, also known as an ISP. It is typically at this point when a CASA is requested. The Advocate Coordinator will then draw up the court order appointing the volunteer. Attention is given to try and match up the best volunteer for each case in regards to personal preferences, geographical location, and expertise.
CASA Volunteer Spotlight
This month’s spotlight features Haley Madole, a young stay-at-home mom of a 3-year-old child and a baby who is due in October. In addition to her own children, Haley and her husband, Jordan (a Claremore fire fighter), have provided foster care for two little girls, one who was reunited with her parents and one who was adopted. Haley definitely is a woman with a big “heart for kids”.
When asked about why she became a CASA, Haley immediately referenced her mother who grew up in the foster care system. Haley said, “I’ve always heard her talk about CASA. She always said that her CASA was the one person who made her feel like she had a future. So that’s why I got into CASA.”
Haley took the CASA training in 2015 while she was in college majoring in social work. She states, “I got all the way up to my last semester of college and I started CASA. I decided there was no way I was going to become a social worker, so I changed my major. I love social workers, don’t get me wrong. However, their job is crazy.” Haley now anticipates graduating in December with a major in medical administration.
When asked about the challenges and rewards of being a CASA, Haley tells about her last CASA case. Haley shared, “There were some points where my case felt hopeless. I felt like I just wasn’t making a difference and that I wasn’t really able to help her.”
But when the child finally was adopted, she states, “Just watching her go to her ‘forever home’ was definitely the most rewarding. I know we want reunification; but whenever that’s not possible, seeing her get out of the foster system was definitely a big deal.”
CASA volunteers spend time doing a variety of investigative activities to learn all they can about the child. They also spend some quality “play time” with the child to develop a relationship and a trust. Haley shared, “The second case was a little girl. Every time I went, we played tea party and we painted nails and I taught her to read. That was fun!”
Haley also shared a special moment that happened to her while working at the Foster Care Festival at her church in Pryor. She stated, “Twice a year, all the kids in Mayes County come to get a new outfit and their hair cut. I was there one day working it and, all of a sudden, I felt a hug. I looked back and it was my little girl on my case. She was so excited to see me. It was funny because she said, ‘Oh, my goodness, you’re a person outside of this!’ It was really cute!”
When asked what she would tell someone considering becoming a CASA, Haley responded, “It’s the most difficult yet rewarding thing you’ll ever do – hard at times, but it’s worth it. I love it!”
We are grateful for dedication of this compassionate woman who is giving of her time and talents to serve children in foster care. Join us in thanking this CASA Volunteer for serving children in Mayes County who need a caring adult during a difficult time in their lives.
Haley is very knowledgeable with all aspects of being a CASA volunteer and always attends any training opportunity’s that come available to help her grow as a volunteer. She is committed to the children and a great bridge support with the family to help them with reunification or foster parent bridging. Haley is very nurturing, passionate, and dedicated to the children on her caseload.
Shawnna Thurman, Advocate Coordinator for Mayes County
The Value of CASA
CASA programs train volunteers to work on behalf of children in the foster care system.
Once assigned to a case, CASA volunteers work to help children thrive rather than just survive.
The Dr. Phil Foundation is committed to supporting organizations and programs that build awareness and offer solutions to address the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual needs of children and families.
Dr. Phil McGraw and his wife, Robin, are the official spokespersons for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).
“Robin and I are committed to improving the lives of disadvantaged and foster children.”
— Dr. Phil
Links for Community Resources
Use the following links to access a variety of community resource lists for Northeastern Oklahoma.
OKLAHOMA CRIME VICTIMS COMPENSATION: Use this LINK to access information about the Oklahoma Crime Victims Compensation on the ok.gov website.
Child Abuse Resources
National Child Abuse Hotline
The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24/7 with professional crisis counselors. The hotline offers crisis intervention, information, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are confidential.
Use this LINK to access their website for additional resources regarding child abuse.
Domestic Violence Resources
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Hotline advocates are available 24/7 everyday of the year to provide confidential crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Use this LINK to access a list of how to offer support to a victim of domestic violence.
Meet Our Staff
Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma (CANO) has a highly qualified staff of professionals. Use the following link to read their bios: STAFF LINK
CANO Board of Directors
CANO appreciates the time and dedication of the agency’s Board of Directors in helping ensure that the mission of CASA is achieved in northeastern Oklahoma. Use this LINK to meet our current Board.