Local volunteers who want to take a stand for abused and neglected children in the court system got a little closer to what will be their platform in their efforts of advocacy.

Training concluded in February for the newest group of CASA hopefuls, or Court Appointed Special Advocates. The CASA program is part of the Howell LACASA Center and teaches its volunteers how to represent a child’s best interest in cases of abuse and neglect. CASAs have many responsibilities, such as visiting the child or children to which they are assigned every 7 to 10 days. They must perform investigations into the different sectors of a child’s life in order to develop recommendations in terms of what is best for the child.

Another major duty is attending every hearing in the child’s case, which the latest CASA class got a glimpse of on Monday. I attended an observation session in Judge Miriam Cavanaugh’s courtroom with several other volunteers I trained with and the program’s leaders. Judge Cavanaugh handles the entire child abuse and neglect court docket in Livingston County so we were exposed to real situations that could be similar to what we will experience and work with as a CASA.

CASA Program Executive Director Sara Applegate says it helps to take everything we’ve learned and see it in action. We were able to watch the court system at work, while identifying with the legal terms we've been taught and how a CASA interacts with the different parties of the case.

Now that the volunteers have had the secondary experience of carrying out the role of a CASA in court, the next step is post-training interviews. The trainees will receive feedback from the program’s leaders and decide if they feel this position is right for them. Those that choose to become a CASA will be sworn in as officers of the court on March 20th, joining the ranks of the program’s 53 other volunteers. (DK)