CASA volunteers sworn in

From left are Kerry Bronson (volunteer advocate), Jennifer Stobner (volunteer advocate), Magistrate Jacques Cabell (Juvenile Court Magistrate), Melody Cole (volunteer advocate), Judge Sharon Guffee (Juvenile Court Judge), Michelle Soll (volunteer advocate), Claudia Zuazua (volunteer advocate), Hillary Cyphers (volunteer advocate) and Michael Thatcher (volunteer advocate). Not pictured: Colin Braithwaite (volunteer advocate), Elizabeth Braithwaite (volunteer advocate) and Alison Fontenot (volunteer advocate).

Ten area citizens were sworn in by Juvenile Court Judge Sharon Guffee Wednesday as Williamson County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers.

Each year, hundreds of Williamson County children are brought before the court, with reasons ranging from abuse and neglect to abandonment. CASA independently trains its volunteer members to investigate these children’s situations, and report back to the court with their findings. 

CASA’s goal is for each child to be in a safe and permanent home. Volunteers undergo 30 hours of training and three hours of court observation prior to standing before a judge. Once completed, each member goes before Judge Guffee to swear an oath to represent and advocate for the community’s most vulnerable children.

“We are honored to welcome these 10 new advocates into the CASA family,” Emily Layton, executive director of Williamson County CASA, said in a press release. “They have already shown dedication to children in our community through the extensive training process to become an advocate. We are so thankful that this exceptional group of community volunteers has decided to go above and beyond to give a voice to children who need them.”

CASA says their highly trained volunteers get to know each child and are by their side, advocating for their best interests in the courtroom and community. CASA volunteers make sure each child’s individual needs remain a priority in an overburdened child welfare system, per the release. 

They make sure the child is safe, has the shortest possible road to a permanent home, and has the opportunity to thrive. Volunteers work with legal and child welfare professionals, educators and others to ensure that judges have all the information they need to make potentially life-changing decisions for each child, says the release. 

Williamson County CASA served 410 abused and neglected children last fiscal year. These 10 advocates join the other 66 advocates who represent and advocate for children who have come into the court system due to abuse and neglect in the community. 

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate, visit williamsoncountycasa.org or call 615-591-2699.