GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County leads the state in child abuse and neglect cases. An organization that helps with those cases, CASA of Harrison County, is looking for a new executive director.
For a year and a half, Roy Kitchell served as the organization's executive director before receiving what he called a surprising notice.
"Last week, I was let go with the whole explanation being that they wish to take the organization in a different direction," Kitchell said.
CASA of Harrison County Board President Michele Gargiulo defends the board's personnel decisions.
"This is our children at stake and we didn't take the decisions lightly," Gargiulo said. "The board felt that we weren't moving in a fast enough pace to accommodate the growth that needs to happen."
Sixty-seven volunteers work with CASA in Harrison County. Ginger Norton was one of those volunteers and now plans events for the organization. She said the goal of the volunteers is to look out for children in foster care.
"We make sure that the children are taken care of, that they are safe and we befriend the child," Norton said.
No longer in his position, Kitchell is concerned the volunteers won't have a support system they need.
"Consistency is very important, I think, in everything, but particularly with volunteers. When someone moves on or we have a staff change, it's always difficult on them," Kitchell said. "If it's difficult on them, they're the ones doing the work, they're the ones seeing the family, seeing the children."
The board is actively looking for a new executive director and plans to post the opening later this week. Until the position is filled, Norton and others on the board aren't worried about CASA carrying out its mission.
"As far as the children are concerned, they won't see any difference. The children will never know about it," Norton said. "There won't be any change for the advocates we have out who have cases and are working on cases. All the advocate advisers are in place."
Board President Gargiulo said she would like the new director to grow grants and fund raising efforts. Norton, who recently organized a successful fundraiser, knows what she would like to see from the next director.
"We need a strong director who can not only help us with fund raising, keep our office open, but put a good face forward and hold the team together," Norton said.
The board members say they would like to see a new executive director in place within the next 30 days.
For more information on CASA of Harrison County visit: https://casaharrisoncounty.org/