CASA director working hard

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2009

NATCHEZ — A trip through the court system can be an overwhelming experience for just about anyone — and it’s no place for a child.

To protect those children unlucky enough to find themselves in the court system, specially appointed advocates intervene.

And in late December, Adams County got a new director of their Court Appointed Special Advocate program.

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On Friday, new CASA director, Thom Gimple, was busy cleaning out his office space at the county’s juvenile center.

While many may not be aware of what CASA does, for Gimple, it’s simple.

“We do what’s in the best interest of the child, period,” he said.

And while Gimple has a succinct idea of what the advocates do, it’s hard work.

After a 40-hour training seminar, advocates are partnered with children and represent them in every court proceeding while they’re in the system.

But before Gimple can start working to defend the county’s children, he needs help.

Before Gimple started his new job in December the position had been vacant for approximately one month.

And before the vacancy, the former director didn’t have a pool of advocates to work with.

Youth Court Judge John Hudson calls in an advocate for any case that deals with abused or neglected children, but said he didn’t know why there had been a recent lack of volunteers to fill the positions.

But that’s changed now.

Since December Gimple has enlisted 14 new advocates that will be trained and working with kids in the courts by February.

Hudson said in Adams County, and in places all over the country, advocates are playing a vital role in court cases involving children.

“This is not an easy job,” Gimple said.

After extensive training, the child’s advocate will make recommendations to the court as to whether or not the child should stay with their family as well as any other important decisions that must be made on the child’s behalf.

Hudson said Gimple’s background in social services combined with his previous work with CASA makes him extremely well qualified for the job.

He said that combination also makes Gimple’s ability to train new advocates highly successful.

“He knows what he’s doing,” he said.

And while the county currently has trained and active advocates, Gimple is especially ready to get to work.

“Every child in this country has the right to be loved and to be safe,” he said. “And that’s what we want to do.”