The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program of the 2nd Judicial District adopted a lighthouse theme to help share the message of safety and hope for children in foster care at a luncheon held August 18 in Paragould.
The compelling keynote speaker for the event was Jeremy Irvin, a CASA Volunteer Coordinator with a background story that surprised guests and explained the depth of his mission for children. Irvin shared his past drug arrests, jail time experiences and lessons learned, and how he now works as a mentor for young men and a court advocate for kids in foster care.
“It’s not easy to stand up and talk about a past that I am not proud of,” said Irvin. “But, if I am able to speak about how I used that experience to make life choices that now put me in a helping position of trust and hope for children that are at risk, I will do so.”
Ryan Vaughan, KAIT8 weatherman and CASA Volunteer, served as emcee for the event which also included an appearance by Lauren Waldon, Ms. Arkansas International. Waldon is a former child from foster care who had a CASA Volunteer and now helps provide support for the organization through educational speeches and appearances. Northeast Arkansas business and community leaders were invited to attend the event by table captains whose goal was to educate philanthropic-minded friends who wished to learn more about CASA’s work and what services CASA brings to the area courts and to the children that have been taken into foster care due to abuse or neglect. This year’s captains included…
“We rarely have such a great and focused opportunity like this to share so much of what we do with interested and supportive audiences,” said CASA Executive Director Donna Lamb-Bowyer. “This time, though with the addition of real and personal stories I think not only did we all leave more educated but also certainly much more inspired.”
Irvin, Vaughan and other CASA volunteers across the nation operate as investigators for the judges hearing the custody cases. They visit with all involved, investigate court ordered activities, and share information through court reports and live testimony. CASA volunteers also meet with the children in foster care at least twice a month to check on their wellbeing for the judge. They listen to and discuss current issues and interests of the children and share items that may need attention.
CASA of the 2nd Judicial District is the second largest of 25 programs in Arkansas and one of 949 programs nationwide that recruit, train and supervise volunteer advocates for children in foster care. CASA volunteers work within their local courts, at the request of the judge, on behalf of the children. CASA of the 2nd serves children within the Northeast Arkansas counties of Clay, Craighead, Greene, Mississippi, and Poinsett. In fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, 104 CASA volunteers from the 2nd Judicial District advocated for 327 children in foster care. For more information on the CASA program and how to become a volunteer, visit neacasa.org or call 870-935-1099.