By Greg Gelpi
With attorneys buzzing around legal proceedings, abused and neglected children need someone to champion their cause and observe what a judge cannot.
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners accepted two grants at its regular business meeting Tuesday night, which will increase the funding of Clayton County's Court-Appointed Special Advocate Association.
The funds will be used to recruit and train community volunteers to speak for victimized children, Gerald Bostock, the coordinator for Clayton County's CASA, said.
"They are basically the eyes and the ears of the judge," he said.
Fourteen new advocates will graduate from CASA's training program Friday, and with more funding on the way the program will be able to recruit and train more advocates, Bostock said.
With the grants accepted by the commission, CASA will add more advocates to its ranks and fund training for CASA staff.
Currently, the program staffs 86 volunteers, but with the additional funding 20 to 25 volunteers will be added.
CASA assigns advocates to abused children. They then evaluate their living conditions and monitor them, checking in at school and home and following up their medical needs, Bostock said. The advocate then submits a report to the juvenile judge prior to any legal proceedings so that the judge is well informed when making decisions regarding the child.
The board accepted two separate grants. One grant, in the amount of more than $29,000, is through the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and is a renewal of a grant the county already received. The grant funds a supervisor who oversees the volunteer advocates.
The other grant is a new grant from the state Department of Human Resources Division of Family and Children Services in the amount of about $69,000.
The grants will also fund education and training for relative caregivers, for instance a grandmother who takes on the responsibility of raising a child, Bostock said.
Many times relatives last through a "honeymoon period," but then decide to turn over the care of the child to someone else, Bostock said.
Training would help caregivers, who hadn't raised children in a while, refresh their knowledge and skills, he said. For instance, a grandmother may not have the math skills to tutor a child.
"We will be able to provide those tutoring services so that it isn't a stresser for a grandmother," Bostock said.
The board also accepted funds from the state Department of Transportation from the Local Assistance Resurfacing Program to work on more than 21 miles of streets within the county, county Director of Transportation and Development Wayne Patterson said.
Although the county accepted the funds, a special purpose local option sales tax was passed to cover the costs of the resurfacing not covered by this program and the costs of millings and road construction, Patterson said.
In the past, the county received about $1 million from the LARP, but now the county receives less than half of that.
Of the 200 to 300 roads the county submits for resurfacing, the state approves only about 60.