CASA: Helping Canadian County’s at-risk youth

Commissioners renew $25k support after program serves 131 vulnerable kids in '21

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Dana Lutz

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

A special group of dedicated volunteers served 131 abused and neglected Canadian County children in 2021

And with more volunteer help, Canadian County’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) will be able to reach more vulnerable youth in 2022.

That was the message CASA’s leaders shared at the July 18th Canadian County Commissioners’ meeting in El Reno.

It was there the county commissioners agreed to continue providing $25,000 in Canadian County funds for the CASA program. They voted 3-0 to renew a contract to provide that level of financial support in fiscal year 2023.

This support over the years has had “such a big impact for our program,” Canadian County CASA Executive Director Dana Lutz said.

“It goes directly toward salaries for staff who supervise, train and recruit volunteers,” Lutz told commissioners. “That way, volunteers spend all their time working with abused and neglected children on their cases.”

Canadian County CASA’s mission is to provide community volunteers to serve as court-appointed special advocates and represent the best interests of abused and neglected children who are wards of the court.

The program serves children and teens who find themselves in trying, difficult situations through no fault of their own.

Canadian County CASA served 131 youth in 2021 – up from 126 in ’20.

“That’s approximately a third of the kids in custody in our county,” Lutz noted.

CASA volunteers advocate for these youth, looking out for their educational, medical and emotional needs.

Canadian County’s CASA has about 60 volunteers who ensure the needs of these at-risk youth are met.

“We’re serving a third of the cases, so I’d like to triple that, if possible,” Lutz said. “I want to serve every kid in the county.”

More volunteers are always needed because Canadian County has some 400 abused and neglected kids.

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‘TREMENDOUSLY NEEDED SERVICE’

District 3 County Commissioner Jack Stewart encourages citizens to consider volunteering.

“It’s a tremendously needed service for the kids of our county,” Stewart said.

Lutz cited the continued cooperation of the Canadian County Children’s Justice Center.

Canadian County CASA Board President Dawnetta Moore expressed her appreciation for the county’s financial backing.

“We look forward to that continued partnership,” she told commissioners.

The $25,000 allocation helps pay the salary of a CASA staff member who is “there to help answer calls at night and on weekends from those volunteers” and visits churches on Sundays to recruit new volunteers, Moore added.

“This helps us to be able to keep that staff so we can keep serving the amount of kids that we serve,” she added.

Anyone interested in volunteering must complete training, pass a background check and provide references.

For more information, call (405) 262-5508 or email dana@canadiancountycasa.org

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IN OTHER ACTION …

Among other business at their July 18th weekly meeting, Canadian County Commissioners approved:

  • Acknowledging the designation of Sarah Ward as chief deputy for the Canadian County Treasurer. “Congratulations on the appointment,” County Commission Chairman Dave Anderson said. “We’re looking forward to seeing you prosper in that role.”
  • A matching grant for a new K-9 in the Canadian County Sheriff’s interdiction unit. Undersheriff Kevin Ward said the sheriff’s office will use $4,000 in “cash” funds to help cover the cost.
  • Confirmation of Ron Cardwell as trustee and Austin Redus as alternate trustee representing the City of Piedmont on the Oklahoma Environmental Management Authority (OEMA) Board of Trustees.
  • Awarding a $38,950 quote to Super Dave’s Comfort Systems to repair the A&B pod air conditioning unit at the county juvenile center. Other quotes were $41,000 and $62,920.
  • Renewing an agreement for FY23 between Canadian County and Logan County so the sheriff’s office may utilize bed space at the Logan County Jail “to house prisoners sentenced to incarceration or awaiting sentencing.”

Meanwhile, Undersheriff Ward presented the weekly Canadian County Jail report showing 217 inmates in custody, with 179 in El Reno and 38 others housed in outside counties.