NEW ADVOCATES for CASA of Bradley and Polk Counties were recently sworn in. From left are advocate manager Natalie Barrionuevo, Sabra Struermer, Judge Ashley Gaither, Caitlyn Hill, Marissa Clayton and Vicki Petzko. Brenda Philips also completed the training, but was unavailable for the photo.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Bradley and Polk Counties swore in five new advocates on Feb. 5.
CASA now has a total of 23 volunteer advocates speaking up for the best interest of abused and neglected children in Bradley and Polk Counties.
“As a teacher and school leader, I have always been a champion of doing what is best for kids,” said new volunteer advocate Vicki Petzko. Previously Petzko served as a faculty member at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, where she was the coordinator of the graduate programs in School Leadership. In addition, she was on the faculty of the doctorate in Learning and Leadership. Petzko has made it a life commitment to live by the motto “what did you do today to make life better for another person?”
New volunteer advocate Sabra Stuermer has also chosen to live by this motto. Staermer stated, “Every child deserves the best possible chance to grow up feeling safe and loved, and I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to do what we can do to make that happen.”
“It is exciting to see our community come together to support the most vulnerable of Bradley and Polk Counties,” stated advocate manager Natalie Barrionuevo. As the advocate manager, Barrionuevo is in charge of training new volunteers and supporting the advocates as they work court cases. “It is our goal to continue to increase our capacity to provide every child that needs a voice in Bradley and Polk Counties with one.”
Once a volunteer has completed 30 hours of training and is appointed by a juvenile court judge, the volunteer advocate reviews cases and seeks to find what situation would result in the best interest of the child. As a volunteer advocate, this individual becomes an integral part of the judicial proceedings and works with attorneys and social workers. A CASA advocate handles only a few cases at a time, allowing availability to thoroughly explore the history and circumstances of each assigned case, and build a relationship with each child through the cases.
“I’m excited to be that special voice for a child that needs me,” expressed new volunteer Marisssa Clayton. “I am excited to be telling the story that needs to be told for all of my children I will serve.”
It is CASA’s goal to recruit 20 additional volunteer advocates in 2020. According to Kids Count Data there are over 1,400 cases of reported child abuse and neglect in Bradley and Polk Counties each year. With additional volunteers, CASA hopes to be able to increase its capacity to serve more of these children. In 2019 CASA served around 270 children.
CASA’s next training sessions for new volunteers will be held each Wednesday from March 18th - April 15 between noon to 5 p.m. Those interested in attending should begin the application process now by visiting casabp.org/volunteer. If you have questions about the training process or anything else call 423-472-5800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
CASA is funded under a grant contract with the State of Tennessee, The National CASA/GAL Association, and United Way of the Ocoee Region.
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