Child Advocates of Northeastern 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 who serves as an advocate for abused and neglected children. This month’s Spotlight features Amy Ross, who serves as a “voice” for children in foster care in Mayes County.
Originally from western Oklahoma, Amy and her husband moved to Langley over three years ago to manage some vacation properties on Grand Lake.
Some years ago, Amy had read about CASA in the newspaper and thought she would be interested in doing it, but never felt like she had the time to volunteer. However, her new position at the lake allowed for a more flexible work schedule, so she decided it was time to step up and take the training. She has been serving as a CASA since May 2014
CASAs get to know the child by talking with everyone in that child’s life: parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others. They use the information they gather to inform judges and others of what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for the child’s future.
Amy emphasized that one of the most demanding parts of being a CASA is getting the information needed for the case. She shared, “The most challenging thing is just gathering the information – getting in there and finding out what’s going on. But I’m not shy, so I just show up at the door most of the time.”
However, she is quick to note that there are some great rewards, too. Amy shared, “Of course, the reward is seeing the kids getting a happy life and not having to go through trauma and the bad things that happen to children in the situations we see.”
Most of Amy’s cases have involved very young children, who have ranged in age from infancy to five years old. She explained, “One thing our training has taught us is that even infants can end up with PTSD from what they’ve been through. It’s just what’s around them. It’s not like something has been done to them necessarily, but just the life that’s around them.”
Amy further shared, “We’ve had specialists come in to our training and talk to us about how even that can affect the child for the rest of their life. You learn that little kids are watching everything you do and everything you say.”
Amy made it clear that many more CASAs are needed. She said, “It’s just so important that we have somebody (a CASA) in there to check on everything and then double check on everything. The agencies are just so strapped. I can’t believe how many cases get shifted from one person to another person to another. I do a lot of ‘back and forth’ to make sure that everybody knows all the information. I’m filling in the gaps to make sure that it all works cohesively.”
CASA Volunteers, like Amy, 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 working mother of two grown sons and two grandchildren who is giving of her time and talents to serve abused and neglected children in our court system. Please join us in thanking this CASA Volunteer for her service to these children.
Amy is one of the hardest working volunteers I have. I never have to worry about her not seeing the kids as she always sees them on a regular basis and builds a bond with each and every one of them. I can ask Amy to take a case with one child or ten; it doesn’t matter, she is always very eager to help in any way she can. Amy has a heart of gold but will also stand up and speak out if she sees any wrong doing of the children. If Amy sees a need (such as clothing, books, or extra activities) that a child may need, she will call me and see what we can do immediately. She hates to see a child not being heard in the court system or one that seems to be in the system far too long and will do whatever she needs to so that the child’s case moves at a faster rate. I believe permanency and safety is Amy’s main focus for these children and she is a valuable asset to this agency.
CANO Advocate Coordinator
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
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