A Passion for Helping Kids

A Passion for Helping Kids

UCO senior strives to help abused and neglected children.

Savannah Jenkins, senior, holds her court-appointed special advocacy certificate following her acceptance ceremony on Dec. 14, 2016. Jenkins was given her first case in January and works to help make sure children of Oklahoma are in a safe place. (Provided/ Savannah Jenkins). 

Some people find a passion late in life, while others find it early. The latter is the case for UCO senior Savannah Jenkins. She has been working on becoming a court-appointed special advocate for abused or neglected children and has just finished her training.

A court-appointed special advocate (CASA) is a volunteer position.  Their job is to spend time with children in foster care and get to know their individual situations so that they can give their recommendations to the court.

The CASA organization works with the local Department of Human Services and court personnel to best serve the children.

Many of the cases that get taken up by CASA are the most difficult ones and being in foster care isn’t always easy for the kids. The advocates go visit the children on a regular basis to talk to them and learn more about their day-to-day situation.

“They need someone on their side,” Jenkins said, describing her role in the children’s lives.

One of the major goals of this program is reuniting the children with their family, Savannah said, but that’s one of the things volunteers consider on a case-by-case basis.

CASA assigns each volunteer advocate a case and Jenkins has just received her first one. They take time to find a case that will be the most effective pairing, taking many factors, such as schedule, location, situation and personalities, into account.

These cases usually last for a while, with the average time frame being about 1.8 years, according to Jenkins. A case ends after the court case is over.

Savannah said that there are a lot of emotions in the court room, and that’s part of why their job is so important.

Even though being an advocate is a volunteer position, becoming one takes training and certification. Jenkins gave insight on what the process is like.

Volunteers must be at least 21 years old. They go through background checks, reference checks and 32 hours of training. They also do a court observation before becoming certified.

Jenkins is in her last year at UCO and is double majoring in Forensic Science and Psychology. She said that she got interested in being an advocate because she intends to be a foster parent and/or adopt one day.

Savannah’s advice to anyone considering joining the CASA program is to do it.

“It takes a special kind of person, but it’s very rewarding, for both you and the child.”

CASA of Oklahoma County is having an open house on Jan. 31 for anyone that is interested in learning more about what they do. There will be a presentation by the executive director, Lee Ann Limber, and an open Q & A session.

If you would like to learn more about your local CASA, you can check out their website, or if you would like to volunteer somewhere else, UCO’s Volunteer and Service Learning Center has other opportunities.

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