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|CASA needs advocates|
CASA of Northeast Louisiana knows the perfect New Year's resolution for people to pursue in 2009: help change the life of a child.
To meet the demand for child advocates in the region, CASA of Northeast Louisiana is asking community members to become advocates for abused and neglected children throughout the area.
An advocate training class will begin 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5. The class will be held at The Center for Children and Families, 622 Riverside Drive, Monroe.
Each year, thousands of children in Louisiana are victims of child abuse, neglect or abandonment.
CASA of Northeast Louisiana works with these local children who have been abused or neglected. Many children who enter the state's care eventually become available for adoption.
Once a child is removed from his or her home, the Office of Community Service works with the parents or guardian while the child remains in foster care.
If the child's parent or guardian fails to complete OCS' requirements, the state can have that person's rights as a parent terminated in state court. The child then becomes available for adoption.
The main goal of OCS throughout the process is to reunite the child with his or her family.
"Some children of this region are suffering at the hands of the very people they trust to protect them — their parents and caretakers," said Erin Stokes, the Center for Children and Families public relations coordinator. "CASA of Northeast Louisiana is continually working to make a difference in the lives of these children. By becoming an advocate with CASA, you become the voice of a child who is desperate to speak out."
Advocates become the eyes and ears of the court, providing important information about a child in need so that the best possible home for that child can be found, she said.
Children who receive the help of an advocate are more likely to find a permanent placement that those children who are left without an advocate, according to statistics from The Center for Children and Families.
Currently, more than 200 community members serve as CASA advocates and they speak for more than 400 local children.
However, Stokes said there are many more children who need the support and help an advocate can provide.
Greg Guthrie, director of CASA of Northeast Louisiana, added, "We are always in need of caring, dedicated people to get involved in the lives of these hurting children. We have children who need the help of a CASA volunteer right now, but unfortunately, there aren't enough trained CASA volunteer workers to meet the demand. We need our community to realize that we have to care for our children, and find them all safe, permanent homes."
Volunteers will be trained by CASA staff so each advocate is prepared for any and all situations involving a child who has suffered from abuse or neglect, Guthrie said.
Those interested in joining CASA's efforts of securing a safe and permanent home for children in northeast Louisiana can call Anna Thomas at 398-0945 for more information.
People can also visit the Web site www.cfcfnela.org.