CASA is expanding to serve more abused and neglected children in North Mississippi.
Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, CASA, recently announced the expansion of their services to Lee County, prompting the name change from CASA of Lafayette County to CASA of North Mississippi.
CASA of North Mississippi advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children through the service of trained, court-appointed community volunteers.
The biggest need for expansion is due to the rapid increase of the demand for advocacy in North Mississippi.
“We have been very successful in Lafayette County over the last three years and while we will continue to serve 100% of the foster care population in Lafayette County, it was time for the program to grow into other counties of need,” says CASA Director Erin Smith. “The mission of CASA of North Mississippi is to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children through the service of trained, court-appointed community volunteers. We have been incredibly successful in doing that here in Lafayette County. We are excited to continue that in other counties in the state.”
There are more than 3,800 children in foster care in the state of Mississippi. On average, 10 children come into the foster care system every day due to neglect and abuse.
2021 Fast Facts:
● 16 new volunteers
● 115 children
● 133 court reports
● 4,000 hours
● 97% of CASA’s recommendations were adopted by the court
When Director Erin Smith started the program, CASA of North Mississippi began with three volunteers serving six children three years ago, and it has since grown to serve more than 100 children with the help of over 40 volunteers.
When CASA began in 2017, Smith had a clear vision for the growth of the program.
“For me, it is very important to bring to light some of the hard topics many people don’t want to face or talk about, although they know they exist. Child abuse and neglect are some of those,” Smith said. “It’s something I look forward to every day, telling others about CASA and what we do, but also raising awareness and educating those around us about child abuse and neglect. It’s a real thing and the more people know, the more we can do to help resolve the problem.”
When she began the program, Smith set out a goal to have a volunteer for every abused and neglected child living in Union, Lee, Pontotoc, Lafayette and Marshall counties.
“I am very excited to see our expansion come to fruition and to be able to serve more children in Mississippi. While we started as CASA of Lafayette County, I knew with my end goal in mind that we would have to eventually change our name to encompass all of the counties we wanted to serve,” Smith said.
CASA is successful in reunifying families, finalizing successful adoptions, and providing resources for affected families. Additionally, CASA advocates and cheers for the biological parents the entire way during the healing process. Advocates are able to help gather information to help judges decide what is in the best interest of the child.
“Through our work with CASA, we are able to make life-changing differences in the lives of children,” Smith said. “For that very reason, we need more CASA programs in our youth courts across the state of Mississippi advocating for the best interests of children. We are a volunteer-based organization, where each day, people from all walks of life can apply to be a volunteer advocate and change a child’s story.”
As CASA expands the need for volunteers has become greater. Volunteers not only advocate for the best interests of the children but also support those who have lost their voice. For many children, a CASA Volunteer is the only consistent person in a child’s life.
“While our jobs and the volunteer roles are not always easy, it’s the reunification and adoption stories that make it all worthwhile,” Smith said. “We are giving children and families hope when, on most days, they may not have that.”
For more information, contact Smith at (662) 832-4747.