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Local CASA Chapter Serves 100% of Lafayette County Foster Kids

Erin Smith started a local chapter of Court Appointed Special Advocates in Lafayette County almost three years ago with a goal of helping all local children in foster care.

That goal has now been met.

On Monday, Smith presented an update on CASA’s work to the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors who granted CASA $21,000 in the 2020/2021 fiscal year budget.

Court-appointed special advocates are volunteers who are assigned to support the best interests of children involved in court proceedings.

Advocates work with local judges, the Department of Human Services, the Guardian Ad Litem program and other organizations in order to provide children with a safe and healthy environment in permanent homes.

Duties for CASA advocates include accompanying children to visits with their parents or other adults in their lives, school, court and doctor’s visits and getting a sense of what the overall situation is for each child.

According to Smith, CASA’s 30 volunteers are currently working with all 31 Lafayette County children who are currently in the foster care system.

“We are serving 100% of our kids in foster care,” she said.

Smith said CASA did not receive a $42,000 federal grant that it has received in previous years, which affected the local chapter’s budget. Both the grant and the nonprofit organization’s two annual fundraisers were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Super Hero Run in March is being done virtually and the annual CASAblanca Ball for January is canceled.

The Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services has a budget of $100 per child to provide basic needs like clothing, car seats, baby bibs, anything that a child needs or a foster family may need, as well as psychological evaluations.

The $21,000 granted by the Board will go toward victim services, Smith said.

Smith said the city of Oxford has not donated to CASA since it was formed three years ago.

“We couldn’t do it without your help,” Smith told the Board. “You not only support us a Board but as individuals as well.”

CASA has two employees – Smith and her assistant. The 30 volunteers are not paid but must undergo training to become advocates.

Their training includes 30 hours of pre-service training and then volunteers must complete 12 hours of in-service training each year to remain active in the program.

Donations are tax-deductible and can be made online at https://www.casaoflafayettecounty.com. For more information on donations or how to become an advocate, call 662-832-4747 or email lafayettecountycasa@gmail.com.

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