GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Court Appointed Special Advocates are in need of volunteers in Harrison County. The agency is offering its last class of the year this month and is hoping to see several good people step forward to become volunteers for abused and neglected children.
Bryan and Anna Cirlot's family of five briefly became a family of six after they decided to foster a 2-year-old from January of this year until April.
"I thought about it for years. Just because I saw that there was a need to have safe homes in Mississippi, and not every child is guaranteed that they are going to have one," said Cirlot.
Anna said the biggest issue she and her husband had was dealing with the judicial system. However, she said a Court Appointed Special Advocate stepped in at just the right time.
"One of the things that was comforting to us was, as complicated as it was to navigate the judicial system with this child, CASA was wonderful in being able to help us and walk us through that. So, we understood how the court system worked and what we needed to do to have this child have the best case scenario happen for him," Anna said.
CASA helps abused and neglected children by checking on them at either a shelter, with foster parents, or with their own parents.
"We go check on the welfare of the children and try to reunify them with their parents if they are not with their parents," said Roy Kitchell, Jr., with CASA of Harrison County.
Kitchell said right now, the agency has 60 volunteers in Harrison County. He's hoping to have at least 100 by next summer.
"They can only cover one or two cases at a time, because it's quality over quantity. So I need more volunteers to cover more families, more children," said Kitchell.
You can apply to be a CASA volunteer online. Volunteers say it's amazingly rewarding and can have lasting results on a child who could get lost in the system.
"It was more complicated to navigate the system than what we realized, but if I ever did foster again, I would make sure I had a CASA worker again. They were our bright light," said Cirlot.
The next set of classes start on Sept. 15. They will be held on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The CASA office is on 47 Maples Dr. in Gulfport. Call 228-865-7078 for more information.