Mature volunteers are needed to stand alongside children during some of the most confusing days of a child’s life: When a judge needs to make a custody decision.

“These Court-Appointed Special Advocates are to be a voice for the kid,” said the Rev. Bruce McVey, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville. “They are another set of eyes looking at some bad situations — sometimes involving abuse, foster situations, or custody battles — to report to the judge.”

To offer information about the volunteer experience, First Presbyterian Church will host a free lasagna supper on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m. in the church’s Family Life Center in the gymnasium located at the back of the church campus at the corner of East College Street and Mulberry Avenue. No reservations are needed; people are invited to simply show up.

The congregation became involved in the CASA project as the First Presbyterian Mission Committee assessed community needs, McVey said. Bonnie Sullivan, the CASA Volunteer Supervisor for Junior’s House, is a member of the congregation and was able to explain the specialized need.

“CASA volunteers are like an extra set of eyes and ears for the judge,” Sullivan said. “They talk to doctors, lawyers, parents, neighbors — not as investigators, but as court-authorized advocates. If the child is old enough, of course, they also talk with the child — not as mentors, but to see what the child’s wishes are. They write a report to submit during court appearances about custody decisions.”

CASA volunteers come from all sorts of professional backgrounds, Sullivan said. Many are retired, but some work full-time — however in positions that allow for the flexibility required to meet court dates. Volunteers are given 30 hours of training. Every case is different, Sullivan says.

The program has been used in Lincoln and Marshall counties since 2014. Lincoln County currently has 10 volunteers, Sullivan says, but could use many more.

“The judge needs this unbiased information,” Sullivan said. “They are looking out for the child.”

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