Cleveland County CASA volunteers stand up for children drawn into local court system

CASA volunteer Maranta Jenkins talks with potential volunteers at a CASA recruitment event Wednesday. 

A Norman children’s court advocate group continues to put children first, especially those who have no one else to guide and fortify their lives.  

Former Cleveland County associate district judge Alan J. Couch created the Cleveland County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) group, a nonprofit organization, in 1984 to prevent abused and neglected children from falling through the cracks. 

Funding from the United Way allows Cleveland County CASA to be that shoulder for children to lean on. 

“The funds we receive from the United Way allows us to recruit the best volunteers to serve the children,” Executive Director Tiffany said. 

“We are very thankful for the United Way. Being a nonprofit, the background checks and screening we have to conduct to find the best volunteers costs money, money we wouldn’t have [without the United Way].”

Page said the organization has one main mission: to keep children from getting caught in the non-stop loop of the foster care system. 

“The mission of Cleveland County CASA is to recruit, screen and train community citizens to serve as advocates for children who have been abused and neglected,” she said.

The advocates’ sole job is to look out for the children’s best interests while they are going through the system. There is no prior special training required to volunteer, Page said. 

“We provide all of the training for volunteers,” she said. “CASA volunteers are just normal, everyday people who follow the children through the court system and act as a constant and consistent adult in the kids’ lives.”

All volunteers are put through a new training program that provides 30 hours of flex training, which means they receive half of their training online and the other half in person. 

“On average, a CASA [volunteer] may work on their case for a total of 10 hours a month,” Page said. “In the big scheme of things, that’s not a lot of time to provide a positive change in these children’s lives.”

In addition, advocates must be 21 years old and are required to pass a background and reference check. CASA is always looking for volunteers. 

“There are not enough CASAs to go around, after seeing all of the cases of children needing help,” Carolyn Lilly said. 

Carolyn and her husband, Chuck, have been volunteers with the group for about 14 years. 

CASA welcomes all volunteers and donations. For more information, visit clevelandcountycasa.org or call 360-5295. 

The United Way of Norman funds programs at 27 local nonprofit organizations. The United Way and these agencies work together to create lasting community changes in Norman, Noble and southern Cleveland County. For more information or to give to the United Way of Norman, visit UnitedWayNorman.org.