CASA partners in child abuse awareness plan
by GREG KAYLOR, Banner Staff Writer
Apr 16, 2013 | 1064 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PINWHEELS SPIN on the state Capitol grounds this month to raise awareness for Child Abuse Prevention. CASA of Bradley County is participating and has now also expanded operations into Polk County, creating Ocoee Regional Family Advocates. Department of Children’s Services
PINWHEELS SPIN on the state Capitol grounds this month to raise awareness for Child Abuse Prevention. CASA of Bradley County is participating and has now also expanded operations into Polk County, creating Ocoee Regional Family Advocates. Department of Children’s Services
slideshow
April is Child Abuse Awareness month and Gov. Bill Haslam’s wife, Chrissy, has started a program to aid awareness.

Ocoee Regional Family Advocates CASA of Bradley County is partnering with Jumpin’ Junction where the first lady’s “Pinwheel Initiative” pinwheels are being sold in support.

“All proceeds will go to CASA of Bradley County. CASA represented the best interest of 177 abused and neglected children in the court system,” said Executive Director Suzanne Wisdom.

According to the Department of Children’s Services social media announcement, “The emphasis on pinwheels reflects that it is a symbol of a happy, carefree childhood and represents one of the [more than 95,000] babies [who] will be born in Tennessee this year. To raise awareness of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, the organization Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee and its child abuse prevention grantees across the state mobilize the ‘Pinwheels for Prevention.’”

CASA of Bradley County has also moved into a new role.

“CASA of Bradley County is proud to announce plans for expansion to the Polk County Juvenile Court,” Wisdom added.

The board of directors and members of CASA are planning a community forum for those interested in working with CASA of Polk County.

This week, several members of the CASA board of directors traveled to Anaheim, Calif., to attend workshops and other programs being conducted at the National Annual CASA conference.

The Bradley County office started receiving cases in Bradley County in July 2008 under the CASA Corridor umbrella and then moved to an independent office in 2010.

It is now acquiring a Polk County office that began taking cases in October 2012 after meeting with Judge Bill Baliles.

The move into Polk County was made possible by an expansion grant from Tennessee CASA, the Johnson Foundation, a five-year contract with Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, as well as support from Baliles’ office and staff.

“The CASA office has also implemented an umbrella organization the board of directors have named Ocoee Regional Family Advocates,” said Wisdom.

“This will enable our office to provide the two CASA programs for Polk and Bradley as well as the Bradley County Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Program and our Income-Based Mediation Program,” according to Wisdom.

Each CASA program or agency carefully screens, then professionally trains volunteers to become Court Appointed Special Advocates for abused and neglected children in juvenile court. These volunteers represent the best interests of the victimized child with the goal of securing a safe, permanent home.

Both federal and state laws allow judges to appoint CASA volunteers to “speak up” for the child’s best interests. CASA volunteers do not work for the child’s family, the state, or other interested parties. They work for the child.

Most CASA volunteers represent only one child, or family of children, at a time.

“There are rare instances where CASA volunteers are assigned to delinquency or unruly cases when abuse or neglect is a suspected cause of the delinquent or unruly behavior. Primarily, CASA volunteers provide a powerful voice in a child’s life through the juvenile court process,” said Wisdom.

“They find the facts and work with the children, parents and others to get a ‘clear picture’ of the child’s life,” Wisdom added.

After the fact-finding mission is complete, they determine what is to be done in the child’s best interest, according to Wisdom.

CASAs also seek solutions to resolve problems, provide reports and appear at hearings.

“Board president Jim Metzger; Meg Metzger, secretary; and Lisa Holmes of our office are in California at the conference and will bring back ideas to help our organization. We appreciate their efforts and volunteerism for the children of Bradley and Polk counties,” Wisdom said.

Anyone who would like more information on the programs or the community forum may call Wisdom at 716-1844, or visit www.ocoeeadvocates.org.