Advocates speak up for children

Advocates are spending today at the Legislature to raise awareness of Court Appointed Special Advocates, an organization to protect children in the court system.

Gov. Brian Sandoval declared Speak Up For a Child Day in honor of the 4,965 children in Nevada removed from their homes usually because of abuse or neglect.

"These children have the right to an advocate to represent their best interests, to speak up for them and to help ensure that they arrive at a safe, permanent home in a timely manner," he wrote in the proclamation.

Caren Jenkins, president of CASA of Carson City, said the agency is in "desperate need" of volunteers to accompany children through the legal process.

"The CASAs are the voice of the child to the court," she said. "Even when you have sibling groups, one child's needs are not necessarily the same as the others."

Volunteers spend time with the child and evaluate the best interest of the child in a report to the court. She said it is up to the judge how influential the report is.

Jenkins said a volunteer observes the child at home and in other settings will have special insight into that child that an attorney would not have.

"Lawyers are not going to have that connection or be the personal friend that the CASAs are," she said.

The day will begin with a 7 a.m. breakfast at the Legislature with different events planned to inform legislators of the importance of CASA.

The governor declared today Speak Up For a Child Day and first lady Kathleen Sandoval, who works at the Children's Cabinet in Reno, is the official spokeswoman of the day.

Jenkins said CASAs are invaluable when it comes to identifying the needs of the most vulnerable.

"Children who are in the court system as victims of abuse or neglect don't know what's best for them," she said. "When you're a kid, you don't know what normal is."


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