CASA expands into Stone County
Court Appointed Special Advocates, also known as CASA, have advocated for more than 2,000 children in 659 cases in Harrison County since the first case was handled by the group back in 2011.
Now CASA’s scope of influence will be even further reaching.
Going to court can be a scary experience for anyone, but imagine being a child, already traumatized, abused, or neglected at the hands of someone else. That’s the case for a number of children right here in South Mississippi, but now kids in Stone County will soon have their own Court Appointed Special Advocate thanks to CASA. CASA of Harrison and Stone Counties President Renee Swoger said, “This is such an amazing milestone for our organization, and it’s just the beginning for us.”
Executive Director Jeannie Herrin said, “We have extended our CASA program into Stone County. Today we’re officially known as CASA of Harrison and Stone counties. It’s been over a year in the making.”
Several city and county leaders were on hand for the official announcement of CASA’s expansion in Stone County Friday, including Stone County Youth Court Referee Sean Courtney who oversees these cases in Stone County and says such services are needed now more than ever. “One place where abuse and neglect thrive is darkness. When COVID hit and mandatory stay at home orders were put into place, and children were not going to school and not being seen in public, abuse and neglect did not cease. Unfortunately, the reporting of that abuse and neglect did stop. Now that we’re starting to see things open up again, as schools open up again, we’re starting to get those reports back into CPS at previous levels, which is not a good thing because you don’t want to see reports of abuse and neglect, but you do want that light shone upon it so you can do something about it.”
It won’t be long until you see CASA advocates in Stone County courtrooms. So far, five people have already signed up for CASA training, but they’re still looking for more. “We are over halfway to our goal. It was my goal to have at least ten advocates here in Stone County by the end of next year, so if you have a love for children, if you want to help, please let us know.”
Stone County Supervisor Lance Pearson said, “Our youth, I mean, that’s our next generation. If we don’t try to benefit them today, where will be at tomorrow?”