By Ed Brock
Clayton County's Court Appointed Special Advocate program is looking for someone to promote its cause.
Using a portion of the recently issued $34,865 grant from the National CASA Association in Seattle, Wash., the program will hire a part-time training supervisor for volunteers, Clayton County CASA Director Gerald Bostock said.
Currently the CASA program has 99 volunteers who are appointed to children who for various reasons have been removed from their regular homes and are in foster care or the care of a relative. The volunteers follow the child's case as state and local agencies consider it and make reports to judges or officials involved in the case regarding the child's needs.
The volunteer training supervisor would be responsible for recruiting and training more volunteers and for handling the program's public relations, Bostock said. The grant will cover the supervisor's salary and other expenses such as mileage and the printing of material.
"Anyone interested is welcome to apply through the Clayton County Personnel Department," Bostock said.
The personnel department accepts applications at its office at 120 Smith Street in Jonesboro between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., and job descriptions are available in the weekly job listings at the county's Web site, www.co.clayton.ga.us.
Bostock said the Clayton County program was one of only 35 around the country, and one of two in Georgia, picked to receive the program expansion grant.
CASA volunteers are considered saviors by many in the juvenile system, Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske.
"They have this ability to obtain information that in a number of instances even the Department of Family and Children Services may not be able to obtain," Teske said. "CASA is the eyes and ears of the court."
The volunteers also expedite the process of getting children out of foster care and into the homes of relative caregivers. DFCS is required to perform a home evaluation of the relative caregiver before turning the child over to them, Teske said, a process that can take two or three months when the caregiver lives in another county.
Unlike DFCS that must request the DFCS office in the other county to perform the home check, the CASA volunteer can perform the check directly.
CASA provides other services for relative caregivers. A $93,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Human Resources has allowed them to finance emergency assistance for the caregivers, such as providing clothes or beds, tutoring services for the children and educational programs.
It also helps fund Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, a support group for "re-parented" grandparents and other relative caregivers.
"We're very thankful that we're partnering with them," said Angie Ethridge with the Clayton County Aging Program and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. "We're able to reach more people when we work together than when we work alone."
Bostock said that on June 10 his agency turned in an application for further funding for the project after the current grant expires in September.
"We're hopeful that we'll get refunded due to the success of the program," Bostock said.