Interview with Child Advocates of Northeastern Oklahoma in Tulsa, OK
In today’s interview, your top roofer Ranger Roofing of Oklahoma from Tulsa, OK is going to introduce the Child Advocates of Northeastern Oklahoma. It is a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) non-profit agency.
An interview has been taken with Linda Polson from the agency, who explained everything about the organization. Many trained community volunteers have been watching and advocating for abused and neglected children. You can also become a volunteer if you’re interested, and if you want to find out more, read their story in the interview below.
To begin with, we would like you to briefly tell us about your organization
Child Advocates of Northeastern Oklahoma is a CASA agency. CASA is an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocates. We recruit, train, and support community volunteers to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, and to help ensure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes.
- What do you do exactly?
And what was the reason that encouraged you to start this organization?
The CASA movement began in 1977 when a Seattle, Washington judge expressed concerns about making life-changing decisions with what seemed insufficient information. He conceived the idea of training citizen volunteers to speak up for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom.
Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma (CANO) was established in Claremore in 1995 to serve children in three counties. CANO expanded to serve a neighboring judicial district in 2015 and now serves children in five counties – Rogers, Mayes, Craig, Ottawa, and Delaware – as well as the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma’s tribal court.
- What motivates you?
Describe your mission passion
CASA volunteers are people who have a heart for kids who are hurting. For most of us, it is difficult to imagine what life must be like for an abused or neglected child.
Imagine, children in our communities…
…Living in places where violence is the rule rather than the exception;
…Watching their parents slowly killing themselves with drugs or alcohol;
…Living in active methamphetamine labs;
…Being exposed to pornography or adult situations;
…Merely existing – eating food you and I wouldn’t touch, rarely attending school, and deprived of regular medical attention; and
…Raising themselves with little or no parental supervision or guidance.
Statistics indicate that, without intervention by a caring adult like a CASA volunteer, 53 percent of these children will become juvenile delinquents. And, they are 38 percent more likely to become violent criminals as adults. However, these vulnerable children do not have to become one of those statistics. With the help of a CASA volunteer, they can turn the page and rewrite the “rest” of their story.
- Tell us about your goals.
Our goal is that every abused or neglected child in northeastern Oklahoma has a CASA volunteer to serve as their “voice” in the juvenile court system. In 2018, we have a goal to add 30 new trained volunteers from our five-county region.
- What was the hardest/toughest moment you had to deal with?
Obstacles you faced when dealing with bureaucracy, permits, funding, etc. Something you would like to point out to anyone who might be starting their own organization.
One of the biggest challenges for any nonprofit is raising funds necessary to sustain the program on an ongoing basis. Angela Henderson, who has served as CANO’s Executive Director since 2004, has as her goal to diversify funding sources while raising as much support as possible to underpin the mission of CANO.
- What was the most fulfilling moment that happened to you?
The greatest rewards come when a CASA volunteer can say that a child is completely safe and in a permanent home, preferably with parents who have corrected the conditions in their home. Watching children move from a place of heartache and tragedy to a place of security, hope, and love is a blessing.
Paula Watson, one of our CASA volunteers who works with children in Rogers County, expressed it well when she shared: “It is rewarding knowing that I have helped children who have been in an abusive environment, whether it is physical abuse or neglect or whatever the case may be. It’s just rewarding to see them being placed in a home where they are going to be loved, that they’re going to be safe, and that they’re going to be appreciated.”
- What separates you from the rest? Why you?
Our CASA volunteers are true superheroes! Their goal is to make sure these children don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. They serve as the “voice” for the child and provide an unbiased, child-focused point of view that is vital to help determine what situations will allow a child to thrive.
When children have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, it is the judge’s responsibility to determine if a child can safely return home to his or her family or if a permanent home must be arranged elsewhere to keep a child healthy and safe.
Judges are quick to point out that the CASA volunteer’s role is extremely valuable to resolve their cases. Associate District Judge Barry Denney, Delaware County District Court, stated: “CASAs are generally able to see kids they are assigned to more than once per month, often developing a close relationship with the child. In addition, they are focused solely on what is in the best interests of the child.”
“In addition to voicing any concerns about the reunification of the family or other permanency,” Judge Denney continued, “I have often had CASAs point out very important issues the child was having that may have been overlooked by overloaded DHS caseworkers, such as hearing or eye testing or tutoring needs in school. Simply put, I wish that I could appoint a CASA to every deprived child on my docket.”
- Do you have any upcoming events in the forthcoming months?
Several exciting events are being planned for 2018, including a special project (shhhh… it’s a secret) that will be rolled out in April. In addition, preliminary planning is underway for one, possibly two major fundraisers to be held this fall. The first will be Mickey Perry’s Bucking for CASA Kids/Claremore’s Roughstock Extreme (an exciting bronc- and bull-riding event) to be held November 3 at the Claremore Expo in conjunction with the Will Rogers’ Day festivities.
- What is it that you love most about what you do?
Again, our CASA volunteers say it best. Charylene Smith, CASA volunteer for Craig County, shared, “The biggest reward is finally seeing children have a good, stable permanency in their life – and to finally have the chance to become a productive member of society and to feel good about themselves – to be able to get past the bad stuff and to go on with their lives.”
- What is the biggest challenge you’re faced with today?
Our biggest challenge is two-pronged, according to Angela Henderson, Executive Director. First, we need another 30 to 50 volunteers. Second, we must raise funds to sustain the agency into the future so that children have this greatly needed service.
One of the biggest challenges CASA agencies are facing is that children are entering the foster care system in unprecedented numbers due to the growing opioid epidemic. Oklahoma is #1 in prescription drug abuse. Children are the silent victims of this crisis which is tearing families apart and helping fuel an 8 percent growth in the nationwide foster system since 2012. Substance abuse and other factors are ballooning the foster care population, putting a significant strain on the court and child welfare systems as well as the resources of CASA agencies. The bottom line is that more abused and neglected children in the court system means many more CASA volunteers are needed. To volunteer, visit our website.
- Anything else you would like to add?
We would invite community members to visit our website. In addition to basic information about CASA and the services we provide, the website has information and links regarding important child-related topics, community resources available in the area, and reading materials on a variety of child-related topics (i.e., child development, child well-being, medical concerns of children, etc.).
We also would encourage people to “like” our Facebook page as “Parenting Tips” are being featured Monday through Friday throughout 2018. Monthly tips will cover a number of general parenting topics, including: managing your family’s digital lives, demonstrating love to your child, teaching life skills, dealing with pre-teens and teenagers, and building strong family bonds.
Contact: How can people reach out to you?
Your organization’s name, phone, address, e-mail and links to your website and social media
Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma
200 S. Lynn Riggs
Claremore, OK 74017
103 E. Central, Suite 500 (St. James Court Building)
Miami, OK 74354
Angela Henderson, Executive Director