CASA expanding services to Grainger

Lakeway CASA will expand their services into Grainger County beginning this summer. Pictured from left to right: Director of Volunteer Services Marie Nicely, Lakeway CASA Executive Director Kelley Williams, The Honorable Judge Lane Wolfenbarger, and Volunteer Coordinator Shey Cudd.

Lakeway Court Appointed Special Advocates has announced they will be expanding their services to Grainger County beginning this summer.

CASA is a national nonprofit association that supports and promotes court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children. In the Lakeway Area, they operate as Lakeway CASA and also serve Hamblen, Jefferson and Sevier Counties.

CASA’s are trained local citizen volunteers that represent the best interest of children in juvenile abuse and neglect cases. Appointed by local judges, a CASA advocates for children in court and other settings.

Imagine being a child that is suddenly removed from their home; everything they know and even love despite being abused and neglected. Life is chaotic, scary and painful for these children to begin with and becomes even more so upon removal. They are sent to a new place, a new home, often to a new school with new people…new everything, through no fault of their own.

While these actions are to protect the child and providing a better life, from the child’s perspective, it can feel isolating and lonely. They still have school activities, doctors’ appointments, lessons to learn and peer pressure to deal with and now they also have court dates, visits with parents and check in’s with social workers.

The good news is there are ways to help these children through these tough days. CASA volunteers are there to provide much needed support through this scary time. CASA’s take the time to get to know the child and are the one constant in the middle of all the shuffle, uncertainty and chaos.

There are still tough days. But now there is someone standing up for the child day in and day out. Someone who knows both the biological and foster parents. Someone who meets with teachers, doctors and social workers to ensure the child’s needs are being met. Someone on their team who speaks up for the child’s best interest in court and gives the judge insight about the child; their hopes, dreams, worries and concerns. Someone who is there for the tough days, the great days and the in between days. Someone whose one goal is for the child to have a safe, loving and permanent home.

Children like Hannah age 5. Hannah’s mother and her mother’s boyfriend were substance abusers and Hannah suffered physical abuse and neglect. Hannah’s CASA representative discovered that she had not been receiving medication prescribed for a life threatening congenital heart condition and immediately informed the court.

And children like David age 12. David parents were also substance abusers and would leave him and his sister home alone for days at a time. David’s CASA has been there through the ups and downs for the two years he has been in the foster care system, and has fought to ensure David received trauma focused counseling to him battle depression.

And finally, Billy who above everything else wanted to stay with his mom but his mom was battling mental illness and substance abuse. Billy’s father was in recovery and not able to care for Billy. Billy’s CASA first met him when he was 9 and stayed the course while Billy was sent to several different foster homes. Billy’s CASA stayed in touch with Billy’s father and learned that he was on a better path and headed towards sobriety and stability. Richard help provide resources for Billy’s dad so that he could stay strong in his fight for sobriety. Sadly, when Billy was 11 his mother passed away from an overdose. At about the same time, Billy’s father was ready to raise him. Though it was a bit rocky at first, Billy has flourished in his father and step-mother’s home and all the while his CASA Richard has remained by his side.

Lakeway CASA was formed in 2012 and first operated in Hamblen and Jefferson counties. In 2017 they expanded into Sevier County. They are pleased to be expanding into Grainger County so that they can help more children.

Lakeway CASA will be holding an information session for those interested in Grainger County at noon, Thursday, April 22 at the Down Home Restaurant, located at 7755 Rutledge Pike, Rutledge. Anyone interested in learning more about the CASA program and how they can help support it in Grainger County are invited to attend.

A New Volunteer Training session will begin in May. Volunteers are needed for many roles; from a CASA advocate to a Board Member. Lakeway CASA is asking the Grainger County community to help spread the word on this important program that helps the most vulnerable children in Grainger County.

For more information, call the Lakeway CASA Office at 423-307-5762 or email lakewaycasainformation@gmail.com