CASA volunteers prepare for the return to courtrooms

Posted at 6:35 PM, Jun 01, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — After a long year of zoom sessions and virtual visits, Court Appointed Special Advocates of Lexington is thrilled to return to in-person proceedings.

In 2020, 1,205 children had open abuse or neglect cases in Fayette, Bourbon, Woodford, and Scott counties.

CASA volunteers or court-appointed special advocates had to visit children through windows and attend proceedings virtually.

"Many would do porch visits where they'd set up chairs on the porch and meet. We had one volunteer that bought window markers and played tic tac toe, so the child was inside the home the volunteer was on the porch. So very creative people," explained Executive Director Melynda Jamison.

The Supreme Court of Kentucky lifted most of the COVID-19 restrictions followed by the state court system in May. Now, CASA volunteers will be able to do much more.

Volunteers like Bryanna Carroll are thrilled.

"I have always had a passion for working with children, helping children through youth groups and other things," said Carroll. "I think that the most intriguing part for me is being a voice for children in court."

They'll work directly with social workers and judges in family court proceedings.

"CASA volunteers go to court, typically three to five times a year whenever their case is on the docket and they prepare a report that goes to the judge and all the parties. But then the judge, often will ask the CASA volunteer questions about the case or to share information on behalf of the child or children, and our judges here in Fayette County say often the CASA volunteer knows more about the child or children than anybody else on the case," said Jamison.

That's why they feel the change will be a Godsend.

"I think that in some ways that gives a broader picture of what's going on and makes people feel more connected in a way. So as things have went to more social media and virtual, there's really not as much social interaction in that, so I think people are hungry for true, in-person, seeing one another interactions," said Jamison.

According to 2019 data from CASA Kentucky and state courts, Kentucky ranks number one in reported child abuse and neglect cases in the country.

To assist with demand, they are always looking for volunteers.

"Typically we are appointed to the worst of the worst cases because there's not enough CASA volunteers to go around. So we're always looking for more CASA of volunteers, especially men," said Jamison.

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