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.
To speak for the best interest of abused and neglected children in the courts of Northeastern Oklahoma. We promote and support quality volunteer representation for children to provide each child 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
Each month, Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma (CANO) spotlights one of our CASA volunteers. This month’s Spotlight features Sandra Self, who works with children in Rogers County.
After retiring from her job at Claremore Internal Medicine, where she worked for 22 years, Sandra missed being around people every day. When Sandra then experienced the loss of her best friend of 47 years, Sandra found that she was a bit lost with what to do with her life. She loves people and really missed the interaction with others, especially her best friend.
Sandra shared, “I just shut down for a while. And then one day I woke up and thought, my friend wouldn’t want me to be like this. So, when I picked up the newspaper and saw an article about CASA, it was like God was telling me, ‘This is what you need to do’.”
Sandra also remembered the children who had touched her heart while attending college later in life. While earning her degree, she had worked part-time at a mental health center with children who had been sexually, mentally, or physically abused. She stated, “The look in their eyes, that haunting stare, just stayed with me all of those years. So, when I got the chance, I volunteered to be a CASA.”
Recently, Sandra experienced one of the great rewards of serving as a CASA volunteer. She shared, “I went to see my kids in another community. When I got there, I asked the oldest girl of the three children, ‘Do you still feel happy and safe here?’ And she said, ‘Yes, and Sandra I just want to thank you for all your support. You just don’t know how much that means to me.’ I teared up. Statements like that make it all worthwhile.”
However, there also are challenges to serving as a CASA. Sandra states that for her the hardest part is just seeing the kids and having to try to explain to them why this has happened to them.
She stated, “I don’t want to say anything bad about their parents. I want them to always remember the good. My goal is to get them back with their parents if at all possible, but that doesn’t always work. The bottom line is that I want whatever is best for them.”
“As a CASA, you have to set yourself aside and think about the kids. I learned that on my very first case. I had to put my feelings aside and look at the big picture. I had to think about what was best for this child and that was hard!”
Sandra and her husband, Louie, have five grown children and eight grandchildren. They are active members of Eastern Hills Baptist Church where Sandra enjoys working with children in the nursery. She also has volunteered for the Red Cross through the years and has had training in disaster relief.
CASA Volunteers, like Sandra, are simply people who care about children and who want to ensure every child has a safe and loving home. We are grateful for dedication of this volunteer who is giving of her time and talents to serve abused and neglected children in our court system. Please join us in thanking Sandra for her service to these children.
Sandra has been a volunteer with CASA for four years. She has worked cases in both Mayes and Rogers County. Sandra takes being “the voice for children” very serious in her advocacy work. She works very hard at making sure the court is aware of any issues with the children. She does not hesitate when it comes to standing up and informing the court about her observations and concerns. We are lucky to have Sandra on our team here in Rogers County.
Sandra Rains, Advocate Coordinator for Mayes and Craig Counties
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
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.
Meet Our Staff
Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma has a highly qualified staff of professionals. Use the following link to read their bios. “MEET OUR STAFF” LINK