Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is taking applications for its volunteer class, which will begin on Saturday, June 27.


CASA volunteers are local community members trained and then appointed by local judges to serve as an advocate for children who are in court due to abuse or neglect in their homes.


The class will take place at the CASA offices located at 236 San Jose Drive No. 130 in Dodge City, over the course of eight to 10 weeks, and is offered to the six counties making up the 16th Judicial District.


“As part of the process, volunteers are working with confidential information from the court, from mental health providers and child welfare,” said Kristin Hines, executive director for CASA. “So often programs will call it a 'professional volunteer opportunity,' just because of the level of complexity and impact of the work they’re doing, and so as part of that volunteers have to go through training.”


For example, volunteers will eventually be training during court observations times, where confidentiality is highly important.


Volunteers wanting to take the class will apply with an application provided by CASA via email or hard copy.


Applicants must be 21 or older to apply and the application process includes a background check, asks for applicants to provide written references and a screening interview both before and, dependent on whether they pass the class, after the training program.


Applicants are asked a series of questions, with some inquiring about their possible personal experiences with abuse or neglect if they have any, and if so, how they’ve healed and moved on.


Applicants’ answers determine whether they are recognized as a stable candidate for the program per the National CASA/GAL Association and the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration standards.


The training curriculum will be around 30 hours total and is provided by the National CASA/GAL Association, and covers a broad variety of necessary topics to give volunteers the foundational base to begin working with their assigned child. Continuous education will be mandatory post-program.


CASA volunteers who complete training are certified with the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration.


Hines said they can accommodate virtual training needs for people still wary of COVID-19, in addition to in-house training with proper social-distancing measures, during the class. Virtual training can also be utilized to accommodate the class size via video conference.


According to Hines, the training program that they will be adopting for this session will allow trainees to go through part of the curriculum independently, while there still will be necessary group sessions.


More flexible training days and hours will be offered and open to individual discussion the day the class starts to allow everyone to follow through with the whole program.


Long-term commitment to the child and their struggles and being able to discern past possible biases are emphasized traits needed by volunteers to help maintain stability for a child subject to a life that is constantly being overturned for reasons out of their hands, which they might not understand.


Critical outside-of-the-box thinking can be cultivated during the class and is encouraged post-class, due to the unique situations volunteers will find themselves in when dealing with children and their families.


“Advocacy is one of the most rewarding and important things you can do for a child when they’re at one of their most vulnerable places,” said Hines. “The number of professionals that they work with can be very overwhelming and intimidating for a child, and when they have a CASA volunteer, they’ve got somebody that is just there for them and focused just on them.”


Anyone interested in applying for the volunteer class must do so prior to June 27.


To learn more about the application process and what CASA does, email www.casadodge@sbcglobal.net