CASAs say experience is invaluable

NORWICH – After five months on the job, a special group of volunteers with the county’s Dispute Resolution Center say their new roles in the community have paid them an invaluable wage.

Volunteering as Court Appointed Special Advocates – a new program that officially began in June – the first crew of appointees have been charged with taking an in-depth look into dispute-related court cases, and advocating for the best interests of the children who are involved.

“To make a profound difference in a child’s life,” said CASA Laura Mandell, “it’s indescribable.”

Since June, the CASAs have handled 9 cases, five in Chenango and four in Otsego County, with roughly 13 neglected children assigned to different advocates so far.

“The impact is happening,” said Rita Maxwell, the CASA coordinator at the dispute center. “The full impact has yet to be felt.”

Once assigned a case, CASAs are required to review court records, research information, and interview the children, parents, attorneys, judges, social workers, teachers, and other family members. In each case the advocate will submit official testimony and an opinion to the court regarding the welfare of the child, and what they believe would be in their best interests.

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