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) also maintains 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.
Use the link below to hear Angela Henderson, CANO Executive Director, being interviewed on the air with Mike Woodruff, the KGLC station manager. Angela tells the listeners about the importance of CASA and our volunteers.
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.
To learn more about what is involved in being a CASA volunteer, be sure to read the CASA Volunteer Spotlight article (below).
CASA Volunteer Spotlight
Each month, Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma (CANO) highlights the advocacy work of one of our CASA volunteers. This month’s Spotlight features Amy Richards, who works with foster children in Rogers County.
Amy is married to Jim Richards and lives in Claremore. She has three children and 6 grandchildren (plus 4 horses, 6 dogs, and 2 cats she indicated with a laugh).
Amy is a full-time nursing instructor at Rogers State University. Currently, she also is working on her doctoral degree in nursing and will graduate in May. She shared, “It’s been an exciting journey. I love Rogers State, I love Claremore, and I love working with CASA kids in Rogers County.”
Amy’s daughter, Abby, is the person who influenced Amy to get involved in CASA work. While Abby was taking the CASA training, she shared with her mother the wonderful things that CASA does. Amy signed up for the next training class and has been serving as a CASA volunteer since May 2014.
However, Amy remembered also when she first heard about CASA, which was almost 30 years ago. One of her best friends from high school became a foster parent and eventually adopted the baby girl. Amy shared, “She said it was the CASA worker who really was instrumental during the foster care and in the adoption. It was the CASA worker that really made things happen.” Those impressions stayed with Amy.
When asked about her experiences in working with the children, Amy said, “One of the most memorable things is that I had a CASA girl that had been moved around from foster home to foster home. When I went to see her after her third move in a year, she looked at me and smiled and then said, ‘You found me! You found me!’ That just meant the world to me.
Amy indicated that internally she thought, “I’m never going to lose you. I’m always going to know where you are.” Every time these children are moved, they think the relationship is over.
Another story that Amy shared was working with two siblings who were taken in by their paternal grandparents. The girls loved to garden so Amy would take their picture in front of their tomato plants every time she visited them. She shared, “Just to see them grow and to see the plants grow behind them and all the fruit. It was cool.”
Spotlight on Amy Richards
“Amy is a great addition to our team of volunteers here in Rogers County. With her background in nursing she brings with her a lot of very beneficial training and expertise. She always does a great job on the cases she is assigned to.”
Sandra Rains, Advocate Coordinator for Rogers County
Amy also talked about seeing the resilience of these same children who had been removed from their home and placed in a loving, caring environment. She shared, “They were always so joyful and happy. I’m not talking about money or a big fancy home or a big fancy car. The difference was a loving and caring setting with grandparents who always had food on the stove cooking and were always taking them to church activities. Just what a difference. All these kiddos needed was a loving home and someone to care for them.”
When asked about what she would tell someone considering becoming a CASA volunteer, Amy shared, “Being a CASA volunteer is something like none other you will experience in your entire life. It is self-rewarding; it’s rewarding to the child. I think the biggest thing to me is how the judge listens and puts value on what I have to say. I have a lot of respect for the judges in Rogers County.”
“I know that the reports that I give, the things that I say, and my presence in the courtroom really matter to the judge,” Amy continued. “I really like the judge that works with us in Rogers County. If I’m in the courtroom and she asks, ‘Is CASA on the case? What do you think? What are your recommendations?’ It makes me feel valued.”
Another incident that Amy shared about working on a case was about asking a child if the child wanted her to tell the judge anything. The child said, “Just tell her I want to go home.” Amy shared, “And I told the judge that in court. I like being the voice for those that don’t have a choice, those that don’t have a voice in the courtroom. I’m happy to be able to do that.”
“I’m more honored to do what I do more than anything else,” Amy stated. “It’s a privilege.”
We are grateful to Amy Richards and the other CASA volunteers who advocate for abused and neglected children in northeast Oklahoma. Please join us in thanking Amy for her service to the children in foster care in Rogers 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.
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 the following link to meet our current Board.