April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Some people try to help in the fight against child abuse during this month. Other people, like Pam
Schriewer of Newalla, have dedicated many hours throughout the year to make a positive difference in the lives of some of our nation’s most vulnerable children.
Pam has been a Court Appointed Special Advocate for CASA of Oklahoma County since March of 2012. In her role as advocate for abused and neglected children, she is an officer of the court, appointed by a juvenile court judge to serve as “the eyes and ears of the court.”
“During the time my parents were foster parents, it became apparent to me that foster children had no representation of their own when decisions were being made,” Pam remarked. “I didn’t know how to do it but I knew that someone needed to speak up for them.”
At this time, Pam is representing two children in two separate court cases. When asked what she found to be rewarding and fulfilling about being a CASA, Pam said: “Knowing that just by being part of a child’s life, I CAN make a difference is very rewarding. As a CASA, I act as a mentor and role model for children. I enjoy being able to build a positive adult/child relationship with a child that has had little or no experience with such a relationship. The biggest reward is watching as the child makes encouraging strides in their own personal life (demeanor, behavior, self-confidence, decision making, relationship building, etc.).
When Pam joined CASA she was working full-time for the Department of Defense, so she served on only one case, which is typical of volunteers who work 40 hours a week. Now that she’s retired she is serving on two court cases. A maximum work load for a CASA volunteer is five cases.
“When one compares the workload of a CASA to the workload of DHS Child Welfare workers who sometimes have 20 or more cases, it becomes obvious why the judges look to the CASA volunteers to fill in the blanks that the overworked social workers don’t have the time to do,” stated CASA Training Coordinator Clotiel Howard of Midwest City.
There is an advocate supervisor for each volunteer. The supervisor helps the CASA volunteer in many ways and attends every court hearing to provide the technical support that is needed to advocate effectively for the children.
Concerning the support of the advocate supervisor, Pam had this to say: “The CASA staff has a wealth of experience and information that they willingly share. They understand the emotional roller coaster experience of the CASA and they’re always willing to lend an ear to any problems you may have.”
Volunteers are provided a minimum of 32 hours of nationally certified training covering such topics as the juvenile court process, the child welfare system, child development, interview skills, court report writing, etc.
To be eligible to apply as a CASA volunteer, one must be at least 21, able to pass a background check, have a flexible day schedule to attend court and be willing to commit to one year of service.
For additional information or to make a donation, visit www.okcountycasa.org or call Alex Corbitt at 713-6607. There are CASA programs in surrounding counties and over 900 programs in the United States. Additional information can be found at www.oklahomacasa.org.