CASA seeks grant to serve local children in foster care

by Sarah Fay Campbell

With the training of the most recent class of volunteer advocates, Coweta CASA now has a full slate of Court Appointed Special Advocates.

There are still not enough CASA volunteers to serve every Coweta child in the foster care system, but the organization has applied for a grant that will hopefully make that possible.

CASA volunteers advocate for individual children, or sibling groups, in the foster care system. The volunteer advocates meet with the children regularly, work for their best interests in a variety of ways, and often become very close to the children they serve.

'Right now, we are at a standstill… our program is at capacity,' said Traci Corné, executive director of Coweta CASA. 'To get more CASAs, I need more supervisory staff.'

The local organization has applied for a grant under the Victims of Crime Act. 'If we get the grant, we're going to be able to serve 100 percent of the foster kids in Coweta,' Corné said. The grant committee should be meeting next week to announce the recipients.

Currently, Coweta CASA is able to serve about 75 percent of Coweta's foster children. These are children who are under the custody of the Coweta County Department of Family and Children's Services, but they may not necessarily be in Coweta County. For some older children, especially, there is a lack of appropriate 'placements' in Coweta, and these teens are sent to other parts of the state - sometimes a two- or three-hour drive away.

The VOCA grants are very competitive, and Corné said there hasn't been an opportunity to apply for one since Coweta CASA has been in existence.

If they get the grant, 'I'll be able to hire a new volunteer coordinator and recruit the volunteers to serve all the kids,' she said.

Though they currently have enough volunteers, one thing that would help CASA serve more Coweta children would be finding volunteers willing to work with children who are placed out of town. 'In some cases we have kids placed 200 miles away,' Corné said.

She said she's looked into ways to help, such as providing gas money, but found 'it's not the money and it's not the frequency' of visits. 'It's that they honestly don't have the time to do the relationship building that they want to do with these kids.' And volunteers don't want to sign up to work with a child when they don't feel they can dedicate enough time to them.

CASAs are required to visit their charges once a month, but usually 'they do way more than that. Some are a couple of times a week,' Corné said.

Coweta CASA has recently expanded its board of directors, doubling the number of people on it. With the larger board, members will be able to 'perform their duties a little bit better … there was more work to go around than there were people to handle it.'

CASA is planning a new fundraiser, Jamming for CASA, on Feb. 8. It will be an evening of bluegrass music, with coffee and dessert and a silent auction. It will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Newnan.

Individuals can also help support CASA while grocery shopping by linking their Kroger Plus Card to Coweta CASA. Each quarter, Kroger will send CASA a check based upon a percentage of the purchases by a linked Kroger Plus Card. To register, visit KrogerCommunityRewards. com. Coweta CASA's NPO number is 98979. Or, type Coweta CASA in the search box.

CASA is also working with Ashley Furniture on the Hope to Dream program.

The program provides new twin mattress and beds to children in need. Contact Corné for more information.

For more information on Coweta CASA, visit www. CowetaCASA.org or call 770-253-0046.



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