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CASA swearing in volunteers

By Ed Brock

On the eve of her swearing in as a Clayton County Court Appointed Special Advocate, Crystal Schuller of Morrow teetered between titillation and trepidation.

"This is very exciting. I'm sure it's going to be very rewarding," said 41-year-old Schuller who lives in Morrow. "At first it's going to be intimidating, but we've been trained thoroughly and I think I can handle it."

Schuller and 11 other new CASA volunteers will be sworn in today in a ceremony at Clayton County Juvenile Court in Jonesboro. Their job will be to advocate for children who find themselves separated from their family and in foster care for one reason or another.

The volunteers will be dealing with children who have been abused, or abandoned or whose parents are drug addicts.

"They're well prepared," CASA Program Director Gerald Bostock said. "They're eager to get their first cases."

While 15 volunteers successfully completed the most recent CASA class, Bostock said three of the volunteers would not be able to attend today's ceremony and would be sworn in later.

Schuller said she's worked with children her whole life as the director of a daycare and as the mother of a 10-year-old son.

"We talk about children's trials and tribulations, but we're not doing anything," Schuller said. "I just wanted to be part of something to help them."

The hardest part of her new role will be working with the adult relatives of the children and convincing them that she is there to help.

"The only reason we're there is to help the child," Schuller said.

Her fellow new CASA volunteer, 39-year-old Doris Mitchell of College Park, said she has other concerns.

"To me the hard part will be getting the resources to really help the child and its family," Mitchell said.

Mitchell also worked for 20 years in the daycare business, and she has two teen-aged children as well. Like Schuller, Mitchell said her experience as a mother will help her as an advocate.

"I will probably work with a range of children so that experience will be good," Mitchell said.

Bostock said there is still a need for more volunteers.

"Our goal is to provide a CASA volunteer for every deprived child in Clayton County," Bostock said.

Of the 450 children in foster care in the county, Bostock said only 168 have a CASA volunteer. They are also starting a new program in which they will provide counseling, support services, tutoring and other programs for the 70 children in the county who are temporarily being cared for by relatives other than their parents.

For more information on CASA call (770) 603-3268.