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Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children is in dire need of volunteer advocates to serve as a voice for children who've been placed in foster care.

"We are currently serving 315 children in foster care with only 80 advocates," said Stephanie Fussell, advocate volunteer coordinator. "The need is tremendous. We're not serving half of the kids we could be because we don't have enough advocates."

"Our advocates are the lifeblood of CASA. They make sure these children's needs are being met and that they have a voice in the court system. These children are separated from their families and need a friend. Their advocate is that person," Fussell said.

Advocates go through a short training period before they're sworn in by the court and given their first case.

"When they're assigned a case, they might spend five hours a month on that particular case. They schedule visits with the children, visits with teachers and others involved in the case and they schedule those at their own convenience," Fussell said. "They can pick and choose when they see the children and the people involved with them."

"The goal is for children to be united with their parent but also the prime thing we're concerned with is the safety, health and well-being of the children," Fussell said.

Advocates go to court once a quarter and testify to the judge about the information they've gathered.

"Their opinion is highly valued because of the contact they've had with the child and everyone involved with child. Their role is vital to the safety, well-being and happiness of these children," Fussell said. "The judge's decision weighs heavily on the reports and testimony of the children's CASA."

CASA would like to at least double the number of advocates it has.

"We need 80 more volunteers," Fussell said.

CASA serves Bowie, Cass, Miller, Hempstead, Navada, Lafayette, Howard and Little River counties.

"We especially need volunteers in the rural areas we serve," Fussell said.

To learn more about becoming an advocate, there are information sessions at 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. the first Tuesday and second Thursday of every month at 1201 Main St., Texarkana, Texas. No appointment is necessary. People who are interested in advocacy can stop by and visit with a recruiter.

To learn more about CASA and the Children's Advocacy Center, visit casatexarkana.org. or call 903-792 1030.

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