Bethany Woman Turns Children’s Tears to Smiles

A little blonde-haired girl sits on a porch step playing with her orange-tabby cat. To the unknowing eye, she looks like any other four year old, but the knowing eye would notice that the little girl is not smiling.

The truth is that this little girl never smiles because to her parents she almost does not exist. However, to Rebecca Fields of Bethany, she and the other 6000-plus neglected or abused children in Oklahoma County, not only exist, but are the focal point of her compassionate and active concern.

Rebecca Fields is one of approximately 180 volunteers to the Oklahoma County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program.

When a child is taken into DHS custody, any concerned person can request a CASA volunteer. The professional staff at Oklahoma County CASA then staffs the request to determine whether a child advocate is needed and can be effective on a particular case.

It is then the special advocate’s job to investigate and follow the progress of the family members in order to present an unbiased opinion concerning the best interests of the children.

“It’s one of the most rewarding choices a person can make” says Fields, “because you know that you have the chance to be that person who makes a difference in the life of a child.”

In 2003, Rebecca was looking for a program to volunteer for and her niece told her about CASA. “My son had spent some time in the juvenile system and I felt extremely alone through the whole process, so when I decided to volunteer for CASA, I wanted to make sure that not only was I there to help the kids but that I was there to help the parents.” says Fields.

On a day-to-day basis Rebecca does any number of things from visiting the child’s school to monitoring visits between the children and their family to transporting the children to doctor’s appointments or simply being a shoulder for them to cry on.

Not everyone can be a CASA. The program relies heavily on volunteers and the advocates must have an unwavering, heartfelt commitment to work diligently towards a positive outcome for the children.

In order to become a CASA, volunteers must be at least 21, able to pass an extensive background check and to undergo a rigorous interview process. They must complete 32 hours of training and be willing to commit to one year of service to the children.

Because court hearings take place during the day, a person must have job flexibility so they can attend. Finally, they are given the Oath of Office by an Oklahoma County Juvenile Court judge at a private ceremony.

Rebecca has been a CASA for two years, and is currently serving on two cases. In all, she is advocating for 8 children.

“My favorite part of the job is the hugs. It’s nice when they begin to trust you and come running up to hug you when you arriveâÂ?¦ the children know that you are there trying to help” stated Fields.

For more information about how you can help, you can visit their website at http://oklahomacountycasa.tripod.com or call Alex Corbitt at 713-6607.

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