Jasper County Court Appointed Special Advocates facing challenges during pandemic

Joplin Area Coronavirus

JASPER COUNTY, Mo. — A Court Appointed Special Advocate — or CASA — can make a difference in the lives of children in foster care.

But, social distancing has presented a few challenges Jasper County CASA’s have had to overcome.

KSN’s Jessica Schaer shows us how one CASA volunteer is making sure her CASA child still knows she’s there for him.

Tammy Swab, CASA Volunteer, said, “Mine in a year has been in his third foster home.”

Tammy Swab has been a Jasper County CASA for the last year.

“I went to his foster home, I went to his school, I met him in various places of eating, for example, like Chuck E Cheese.”

But things look a little different during this time of social distancing.

“Taking some stuff out and putting it on their front porch. Just so he knows I’m still thinking of him. And just trying to find some creative ways to let him know that I’m still in his life.”

Chelsi Scott, CASA Volunteer Coordinator, said, “CASA work definitely hasn’t stopped, it just looks a lot different right now. So, our CASAs have been really creative.”

Many CASA volunteers have resorted to facetime calls, penpal letters, and driveway hellos.

“Now that the kids are home all day, just making sure that they’re safe and maintaining that connection with their CASAs to know that they’re still there, they still care. They’re going to continue to see them.”

“It’s important that he knows I’m his constant, and that I’m always going to be there for him through his whole journey through the foster care system,” said Swab.

Tammy is one of 35 CASAs in the county — 11 more will be sworn in this week — and 6 are going through the current class to become a CASA.

Meanwhile, court is still going on for their cases, albeit, virtually.

“CASAs still get to put in a report. Right now those reports are really important because the court is making their judgement based on the case worker, the juvenile officer, and, when a CASA is appointed, a CASA court report,” said Scott.

“I did my document, and sent it through CASA and they sent it to the judge,” said Swab.

And, there have been challenges…

“Some of our kiddos are in residential placements and they are pretty much on lockdown right now, so they’re not letting a lot of people in. And, many of our volunteers have overcome the barrier of having to use the Zoom platforms or WebEx. That’s new,” said Scott.

“We also have to try to stay in contact with parents through all of this. The biological parents. So that’s challenging as well,” said Swab.

But the work CASAs do is so important to the lives of the children they serve.

“There’s lots of turnover for pretty much everyone else in those kids’ lives so the CASA agreeing to be that consistent, caring adult is really crucial,” said Scott.

“It’s very, very rewarding because I know that we can make a difference as a CASA. And we are making a difference in the lives of many children. The goal is that every child going through the system will have a CASA,” said Swab.

CASA are currently serving about 80 kids in Jasper County, but more than 400 Jasper County children are in the foster care system.

The goal is to assign every child in foster care a CASA, eventually.

If you’re interested in becoming a CASA, follow the link below.

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