Seven Edmond residents were among the 17 new child advocates sworn in as CASA volunteers on March 24: Alana Schwarz, Sibonginkosi Wenyika, Kathryne Miller, Kris Austin, Michael Altshuler, Nancy Gwin and Daryhl Page.
Court Appointed Special Advocates serve as “the eyes and ears” of the juvenile court judges. They interview anyone who has any information about the family and then make recommendations to the court in a written report.
The Honorable Lisa Davis, District Judge, administered the Oath of Office to the new graduates who recently completed 40 hours of basic training.
“Given the hundreds of abused and neglected children who don’t have an advocate, we are very pleased to have these concerned citizens join our volunteer program,” remarked Lee Ann Limber, executive director for CASA of Oklahoma County Inc. “At this time, there are only enough advocates to represent about 25 percent of the children,” she added.
Schwarz, a retired health administrator, said “I expect to offer competent recommendations so children can have the best chance for a good life.”
As a college professor, Wenyika had learned about CASA as a graduate student. She stated: “I believe in the work CASA does for children and am convinced there’s no better place to serve.”
Altshuler is a recently retired high school counselor from Edmond Public Schools. “Now having the luxury of free time, I decided to be an advocate for the welfare of children,” he commented.
Austin expressed his reason for joining CASA in this way: “I believe children in these desperate situations need as much help as they can get and CASA provides a straight- forward way to accomplish the greatest amount of good.” As the CEO of an Internet start-up, he believes he can use his analytical skills to thoroughly investigate each case.
Page is a firefighter for the Department of Defense. He expressed his reason for joining CASA in this way: “My heart is passionate concerning the plight of our children and I believe CASA is one of the best ways to make the lives of these children better.”
To become a CASA, one must be at least 21, have a flexible schedule to attend court and be able to pass a background check and a rather rigorous interview process. In addition, one must be willing to serve for a minimum of one year.
Having served as a pediatric nurse, Gwin has seen firsthand the impact of abuse and neglect on children. She remarked: “I believe my medical background will be a real asset in advocating for the best interests of children.”
Miller is a degree completion adviser for UCO. As a CASA, she explained what she hoped to accomplish in this way: “Helping a child be placed in the best atmosphere to grow into a successful adult.”
TO LEARN MORE about the CASA program, call Alex Corbitt at 713-6607 or visit the website: www.okcountycasa.org.