CASA of Polk & Haralson Director Andrell Turner said new volunteers Rhonda Blisitt, Mary Allen, Ivy Allen and Joan McDermott will help the agency reach its goals.
During a January presentation to the Rockmart/Polk County Rotary Club, Turner made an appeal for more volunteers. She said with the number of volunteers they had then, the organization was able to help only 22 percent of the children who are in foster care.
"We do not have enough volunteers," Turner said in January. "In order to grow our program and meet the needs, we need about 100 more volunteers."
That kind of growth won't happen overnight, Turner admitted. But she had hoped to make a dent in the unmet needs through the addition of a few more volunteers.
The four who completed the course and were sworn in last week are a much appreciated addition, Turner said.
Turner also thanked The Rockmart Journal and The Cedartown Standard for helping to spread the word about CASA's mission and its needs through a series of stories the newspapers have run. One of the four new volunteers found out about the program after reading about it in the January newspaper story, Turner said.
"As a result of The Rockmart Journal's committment to abused and neglected children in our community, we had a record breaking year of recruiting 17 new Advocates," Turner said.
More volunters are sought.
"However, the need for additional advocates is great with Polk county ranking at the highest number of children in foster care per capita in the state of Georgia," Turner explained.
CASA volunteers, since they are working with abused and neglected children, must first pass a background check, including fingerprints. The fingerprint check used to cause a delay of up to three months. But now the program has access to digital readers and the state database, allowing a fingerprint check in about four hours, Turner said.
Other requirements are: Age 21 or older; must be a U.S. citizen; be objective and non-judgmental; commit to at least a year; and be prepared to serve an average of 10 hours a month.
Volunteers must also complete 40 hours of training, which is spread out over five weeks. This includes 10 hours of courtroom observation and 30 hours of classroom instruction.
Turner said CASA volunteers serve as advocates to make sure that the needs of children in foster care are being met. Since they are impartial participants, she said, relatives of the children also tend to be more forthcoming with information.
CASA volunteers do not have any say about removing children from homes, Turner explained. By the time CASA volunteers are involved, children already have been removed from their homes by court order.
A goal of the advocates is to move children quickly out of foster care and back into their homes, when possible. Some children never leave foster care, due to serious neglect and abuse in their homes, Turner said. But most children are in the system for a limited amount of time.