GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Elizabeth Vowell – email
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Harrison County Youth Court sees hundreds of cases involving neglected and abused children each year. Now, a new group is coming to the aid of those kids who have seen so much.
Harrison County now has a chapter of Court Appointed Special Advocates.
"We are a voice for children who have no one else to speak for them, and we get to the bottom of cases and find out what's really going on," said CASA Volunteer Melissa Holder.
CASA advocates work with everyone involved in a child abuse case to help determine what is best for the child. However, being a CASA volunteer can be demanding and emotionally draining.
"We take on cases of child abuse and neglect and that is a very emotional, difficult thing for most people. Not everybody can be a CASA," said the Harrison County CASA Executive Director Jeannie Herrin.
"We have to remain very objective and remember that not everything is the way it appears to be in the beginning," said Holder.
Before a CASA Volunteer can even set foot into a courtroom, they most go through an extensive back ground check, interviews, and more than 30 hours of training and mentoring.
The training teaches volunteers how to approach families, how to spot signs of abuse, and how they can best help an abused child.
"Children are very important for the future and if they don't have anyone to stand for them and help them with their life then we won't have a future really," said CASA Volunteer Gigi Hines.
"I think this is a very worthwhile cause and I just wish we had more volunteers because there are a lot of children in this community who need a voice," said Holder.
The Harrison County CASA currently has two volunteers aside from the executive director. There will be training programs for new volunteers in January.