CASA kicks off in Callaway as three volunteers are sworn in

From left: Lisa Dresner of Boone County, Linda Willenburg of Fulton, Mary Beth Stephens of Hatton and Trent Willenburg of Fulton are sworn in as Court Appointed Special Advocates for children Tuesday. Stephens and the Willenburgs are the first class from Callaway County to enter the program, which matches volunteers with foster children to have an advocate during court proceedings.

From left: Lisa Dresner of Boone County, Linda Willenburg of Fulton, Mary Beth Stephens of Hatton and Trent Willenburg of Fulton are sworn in as Court Appointed Special Advocates for children Tuesday. Stephens and the Willenburgs are the first class from Callaway County to enter the program, which matches volunteers with foster children to have an advocate during court proceedings. Photo by Dean Asher.

Callaway County foster children now have three new friends they can count on.

Linda and Trent Willenburg of Fulton and Mary Beth Stephens of Hatton were sworn in as non-attorney officers of the court Tuesday at the Callaway County Courthouse, to participate in the newly-founded Callaway arm of Heart of Missouri Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), a group that matches volunteers with children to stand up for them as they go through the foster system.

“CASA volunteers are important, so kids have a voice in the court and don’t get lost in the system,” said Kelly Hill, CASA program coordinator. “We want to make sure the kids get a safe, permanent home as soon as possible.”

This marks the first class of volunteers to enter the program in Callaway County. The program received a grant that allowed them to begin operating here last year.

CASA volunteers are matched with a foster child, often a victim of abuse or neglect, to serve as an advocate for that child throughout their case process, attending all court proceedings and visiting the child twice a month at home to make sure they’re receiving good care.

Family Court Administrative Judge Leslie Schneider, who swore in the volunteers, said she considered them an “integral” part of the foster system, and noted CASA volunteers have brought changes such as new foster homes or special treatment based on their recommendations.

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