Name may be new, but child advocacy mission remains same

Graves County Child Advocacy Program, Inc., has a new name, but the mission remains the same.

CASA of Graves County & Southwest KY, Inc., is the new name, which reflects the areas of Graves, Carlisle and Hickman counties that the organization currently serves, as well as the planned expansion into Fulton County.

"It's a very exciting time for our organization right now that we're able to grow our (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program and provide services in our river counties," said Stephanie Floyd, executive director for CASA of Graves County & Southwest KY.

A news release from the organization explained the Graves County Child Advocacy Program had operated for 30 years to protect and advocate for children. In 2000, it started operating a CASA program for abused and neglected children in Graves County, and then eventually branched out in 2018 to provide services in Carlisle and Hickman counties.

"We decided to focus all of our efforts on CASA and provide services to Carlisle and Hickman counties with planned expansion into Fulton County," Floyd said.

The expansion into Fulton County is anticipated for January 2020.

Floyd said Hickman and Carlisle counties didn't have the resources to establish their own CASA programs, but the organization was in a position to meet the needs in the counties.

As part of 23 Kentucky CASA Network members, CASA of Graves County & Southwest KY's mission, according to the release, is to "provide trained community volunteers for court appointment to advocate on behalf of dependent, abused and neglected children in Graves County and southwest Kentucky."

Floyd said the feedback from judges in the First and 59th judicial districts has been positive.

"They're very happy we're able to do that," she said. "(District) Judge (Hunter B.) Whitesell has wanted CASA in his courts for some time, and so we're excited to be able to assist with that."

With the expansion also comes the need for volunteers. Floyd said they have 25 volunteers in Graves County, one in Carlisle County and two in Hickman County. More are anticipated for Fulton County when it comes under the CASA purview.

To date, Floyd said the organization has served 84 children in Graves, six in Carlisle and two in Hickman County in 2019.

Anyone 21 or older can apply to be a CASA volunteer. Training classes will begin in October. Candidates must complete an interview and background screening, complete 30 hours of training and commit to one year of service as an advocate.

"We're grateful for volunteers who can stay with CASA for a period of time, but it's a very emotionally taxing volunteer position," Floyd said. "Some folks need to take breaks from it, so we always need to be adding to our ranks so we can meet needs of the court and the kids."

For more information or to learn more about volunteering or supporting CASA, call (270) 251-2060 or visit www.gravescountychildadvocacy.org.

Eric Walker is the sports editor for The Mayfield Messenger. He has also worked as a staff writer for the Messenger, editor for the Murray Ledger & Times, and in public relations. He is married with two sons.