COVINGTON -- There are a few things we really don't want to know about -- things like abused children, children who are not cared for, children who aren't even taken to school. But then, we probably need to know about some of these things when they are close to home.
According to Jim Killman, executive director for Alcovy CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) in 2011 there were about 150 children in custody in the Alcovy Judicial Circuit because of substantiated cases of abuse and/or neglect. That's just in Newton and Walton counties.
"We are talking about our community, not someone else's," Killman said.
"Every time an abused or neglected child's case goes to court, one of our neighbors volunteers his or her time to represent that child's best interests, but we are now short of volunteers."
Alcovy CASA is the Court Appointed Special Advocate agency that recruits, trains and assists volunteers in this work. The work requires dedication to, concern for, and determination to see better things for children who cannot speak for themselves.
Killman emphasized the advocates who are representing these children are people from all walks of life, any gender, all ages.
"They're just average citizens who care about the children in their community and who are willing to give some time to address the concerns of the children in need," he said. "It's important work."
CASAs investigate cases of abuse and neglect and then report to the Juvenile Court with a recommendation as to the child's best interests.
"As you read this, there are likely to be 50 or 60 children currently in state custody in your community who need the voice of an advocate in Juvenile Court to speak for them," Killman said. "Chances are very good that one is your neighbor or someone you see in church or at the grocery store. Because they are just like you. Only trained and sworn to do their best for children in need."
Killman's office is issuing a call during this Child Abuse Awareness Month to ask residents to consider giving some of their time to these children. "It's about taking care of our own. It's about doing the right thing. And it's about a willingness to help children who are too young to help themselves," he said.
Anyone interested should call Killman's office to have information emailed which will further explain the program. Training classes will be starting soon. Volunteers must pass a background check, participate in a 40-hour pre-service training course and agree to stay with a case until it is closed (about 18 months on average).
Alcovy CASA Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation dedicated to recruiting, training, and supervising volunteers to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates in Newton and Walton County Juvenile Courts. For information, call 770-385-7450.