Eight area residents have been sworn in as new volunteers for the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, but officials say more are needed to serve as a voice for abused and neglected children in the foster care system.
Juvenile Court Judge Douglas Flanagan swore in the CASA members Nov. 14.
"Without volunteers, we would be in a fix," Flanagan said. "These volunteers go to the child's school, doctors' offices, their home.
"We try to appoint a CASA for every child, but we don't have enough volunteers, and they do this all on their own. The pay is zero. They pay for their gas, food and time."
One volunteer, Crickit Frederick, of Evans, said sometimes these types of opportunities find you.
"I'm a volunteer at the hospital, a substitute teacher, a Community Emergency Response Team Member, so I do a lot with the community," Frederick said. "While I was volunteering at the hospital, I met someone who was working as a CASA and the next day I was watching Doctor Phil and he was talking about the program. So, I guess it was meant to be."
Prospective CASA volunteers must undergo a background check and extensive training, said Dan Hillman, director of Child Enrichment, which oversees CASA.
"The judge is counting on the CASA to inform him on how the child is doing," Hillman said. "It is all about protecting the children, and the CASA stays with the children until a safe, permanent home is found."
One of the new volunteers, Jim Frock of Martinez, said retiring from the military has left him with the time to give back to the community and he wanted to help in some way.
In 2007-2008, 411 children in the foster care system were served by Child Enrichment's CASA program.
"Currently, the program is serving over 200 children and the number of children needing our help continues to grow," said CASA Director Maria Gonzalas-Carter. "Since 1978, Child Enrichment, along with CASA volunteers, has served over 14,000 children."
For information on Child Enrichment's CASA program, or to become a CASA volunteer for Columbia, Richmond or Burke counties, go to www.childenrichment.org or call (706) 737-4631.
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