Effort to Establish Special Advocate Program Underway in Hinds County

Mary Purvis

Article by Mary Purvis Featured Author


In 1977, Seattle Judge David W. Soukup felt that he didn’t have the information he needed to make a decision about a 3-year-old girl in his courtroom who had been abused. His idea was to recruit and train volunteers to speak up for the best interest of the child in the courtroom. From this idea, Judge Soukup established the first CASA (“Court Appointed Special Advocates”) program in King County, Washington. Today, over 950 state organizations and local programs work in 49 states to recruit, train and support over 93,000 dedicated CASA volunteers. CASA volunteers serve over 240,000 children annually.

CASA is an organization of highly trained adult volunteers who advocate for children in the foster care and child welfare system. After receiving specialized training, volunteers get to know the child and talk to people in the child’s life to identify their needs. Volunteers advocate for the child’s rights and needs until they are in a safe, loving, permanent home. A CASA volunteer is very often the only adult a child has been able to rely upon in their entire lives. It’s that simple — a qualified, caring adult can change everything.

Today there are more than 3,880 children in Mississippi’s child welfare and foster care system, and local CASA programs currently serve in Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Lafayette, Lee and Stone Counties. CASA Mississippi is working closely with National CASA to establish a program in Hinds County, where there are currently over 270 children currently in the system. Toddlers who have had to be removed from their families because of abuse, abandonment or worse. Children who have lost their parents, their friends and often been separated from their brothers and sisters, because the system is overstretched. Young teens who have had to change homes and schools six or seven times in just a few years, because they are shuffled between different temporary living situations.

The mission of CASA of Hinds County is to recruit and train community volunteers to become court-appointed special advocates for the best interests of abused or neglected children in the pursuit of safe and permanent homes. We are currently in program development and have established a Board of Directors, filed our Articles of Incorporation, and developed our Bylaws. We are raising funds to support this effort, hire an Executive Director, and begin recruiting and training volunteers. To donate, please visit www.PayPal.Me/CASAMississippi, and note that your donation is intended for CASA of Hinds County.

All children deserve to be safe, and treated with respect and dignity. All children have a right to a loving home where they can rebuild friendships and learn and grow. You can learn more about this work at  www.nationalcasagal.org. If you are interested in supporting this effort in Hinds County or learning more about this effort, please e-mail mpurvis@casams.org.