BY JEFF LEDINGTON
The Knox County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly meeting on Tuesday at Union College.
Chamber President Rich Prewitt presided over the last meeting of his two-year term. Prewitt served an extended term in the role due to the coronavirus pandemic. Prewitt thanked the members of the Chamber for their support during his time. “You have been a blessing to us,” said Rev. Leonard Lester of Prewitt.
Debra Hauser from CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Laurel, Knox, and Clay Counties spoke to the group about the organization. CASA’s are volunteers appointed by the courts that work with children in the system. “Our goal is to have a CASA for every child,” said Hauser. The program, part of a larger national organization, began in Laurel County in 2017 and later expanded to Knox. Clay County is currently in the process of being added as well.
There are currently 18 volunteers working with the local CASA group. Volunteers undergo 30 hours of training and three background checks. They then swear a confidentiality oath before the court and are assigned a family as needed. A CASA may be assigned one child or multiple if there is more than one child in a family. The CASA meets with the child monthly plus social workers, parents, and others and writes reports. CASA’s are able to make recommendations to the court on the child’s behalf.
Hauser stated that children with a CASA are usually placed in a permanent home seven months earlier than a child without an advocate. Ninety percent of children with a CASA also never re-enter the system. In 2020, CASA served 43 children. “The only barrier to helping as many as possible is the number of volunteers we have,” said Rhonda Welch of CASA. Hauser noted that there were 882 abuse cases in Knox and Laurel Counties in 2019 and 225 children in foster care in 2020.
CASA is a non-profit organization that is funded by grants and donations. More information can be found at https://casaknoxlaurel.com
Barbourville Tourism Director Marcia Dixon spoke about upcoming holiday events in the city. This weekend is the city’s Candy Land celebration that includes ice skating, carriage rides, the I Believe in Santa Clause Parade and more. A full schedule can be found online and in The Mountain Advocate on page A16.