CSI is excited to announce the addition of a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program to our current services. CASA programs across the nation work to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocates so every abused or neglected child in the United States can be safe, have a permanent home and the opportunity to thrive.

Effective April 1, 2018, the newly founded CASA of CSI is being led by program director Carlos Nelson. Mr. Nelson previously served Ware County as a Volunteer Coordinator for Atlantic Area CASA. A desire to expand advocacy throughout the Waycross Judicial Circuit, which includes Ware, Pierce, Coffee, Bacon, Brantley and Charlton Counties, led to discussions between Atlantic Area and Georgia CASA at the state level. A decision was made for CASA of CSI to be established as an independent program dedicated to serve within the multi-county district.

Mr. Nelson and CSI leadership have wasted no time working towards the goal of establishing advocacy efforts in these counties. Within two months of establishing the program, agreements have been reached with juvenile court justices in both Coffee and Pierce Counties to allow CASA of CSI to begin work recruiting volunteers and working within their courtrooms. In addition, the newly established program has been approved for support through the federally funded Promoting Safe and Stable Families fund and United Way of South Georgia.

Advocacy activities are conducted by trained volunteers – they are everyday members of the community doing extraordinary work by choosing to speak up for abused and neglected children in their communities. They are screened and trained, then appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of a child or sibling group in the foster care system. Often the CASA volunteer is the one constant in a child’s life while he or she goes through the overburdened system. CASA volunteers work to move the children through foster care and into safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.

The work of a CASA volunteer involves gathering information from everyone involved in a child’s daily life, including family members, foster parents, teachers, doctors and social workers. CASA volunteers use the information they collect to report to the judge, advocating for the child’s physical and emotional needs. They are not foster parents; they are highly trained community advocates acting as a powerful voice for a child.

Nelson encourages people from all walks of life to become CASA volunteers because it is important for volunteers to reflect the diversity of the children they serve. “A CASA volunteer is a person committed to being a stabilizing, familiar force in a young person’s life,” added Nelson. “There is no greater personal reward as a CASA volunteer than seeing a child whom you helped thrive in their forever home.”

To learn how you can become an advocate for children in Coffee County, contact Carlos Nelson at cnelson@concertedservices.org or 912-809-6072. Volunteers must be 21 years of age or older and willing to commit to at least one year of advocacy. No special educational background or experience is required.