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CASAs advocate for children

Lawton_Four Lawtonians became CASAs today.  No, not houses.  The four volunteers were sworn in as Court Appointed Special Advocates - CASAs.  As court representatives, they check on children who were victims in abuse cases.  They visit the children in their homes to make sure they are being cared for properly. 

Judge William Stratton swore in the new CASAs, and told them that what the do in one day can make a lifelong difference to a child.  It was an exiting day for the advocates and their families, but they're prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the job - the lows of witnessing abuse first-hand, and the highs of ensuring a safer and happier environment.

Ericka Carmon didn't think she was doing enough for the community, so she decided to become a CASA to advocate for abused children who need help.  "We are there," she says.  "We are the voice of the child.  We do what's best for the child and we have to make sure the child gets the best placement."

CASA's placement is usually in foster care, but can sometimes be with the child's parents or a relative.  It can be a difficult transition for the children, and it's difficult for CASAs too - they must keep their emotions stable.  "In order to do what we do, you need to have a level head.  And if you're feeling like you're getting too involved then you just retreat," says 11 year CASA veteran Martha Bea Johnson.  "Myself, when I go home in the evening, I jack up the radio and I can't sing but I do.  It's just release for me," says Southwest Oklahoma CASA Director Nadine McIntosh.

McIntosh says they need the release since the job can be especially frustrating.  But, taking care of children makes it all worthwhile.  "I have absolute...jubilation.  It's the only word I can think of.  It's great when they're successfully completed," she says.  "I'm so excited because I'm ready to get my first case and I'm ready to take care of these kids," says Carmon.

CASAs aren't permitted to discuss specific cases, but Johnson says each success brings the same joy.  "You get to look in their eyes, and you get to see the love that they can give, and that means more than anything.  That's personal," she says. 

The new CASAs went through thirty hours of training on how to evaluate parents and guardians of children they protect.  They had guest speakers and observed court proceedings.  This ceremony brought the number of CASAs in Lawton to 12, and they're looking for more.  If you would like more information on how to become a CASA volunteer, visit www.oklahomacasa.org.

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