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CASA training begins, volunteers needed

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Children who are going through court because of abuse or neglect often need help to go through the process but the local organization that helps is in need of volunteers.

It can be a scary experience for kids to come to a courthouse and talk about what happened. Volunteers are trained to make that experience easier.

They're called Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA volunteers and the need for them is high.

Today in McDonough county, the program is beginning to train a new batch of volunteers.

They go through a free 4-week, or 30-hour training course before they are assigned a case but Todd Shackelford with Advocacy Network for Children, said it's a big, but necessary commitment.

"It's not a volunteer job for anyone," Shackelford said. "It's not a quick couple of hours here and there and then you're done. This is a longer commitment.."

Shackelford said whether you're retired or work full-time, anyone can volunteer.  

Once you're assigned, you'll stay with your child throughout the whole court process. He said there's some flexibility with schedules, but it's important to remember how much you're helping another person's life.

Mark Bigelow has been a volunteer for over five years now. He said the training is the easiest part and anyone that has the desire to help kids can do it.

"You gotta have the desire to want to volunteer and do it," said Bigelow. "Having a little bit of time to commit to it even though to be quite honest with you, it's an excuse if you say you don't have enough time. Almost anyone's got enough time to go in and do that training.."

Bigelow said speaking up for a child and giving them a voice in this process makes a huge difference.

Organizers said it's not for everyone, but Bigelow said it's one of the most rewarding things you can do for a child in need.

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