A Child Advocate Making a Difference in Lives

By Alyssa Cohen

When children can’t speak up for themselves, who can?

Since 1997, Court Appointed Special Advocates, commonly known as CASA, have been transforming the lives of innocent children. The organization was established by David Soukup, a former Seattle Judge, who grew increasingly troubled by the court systems’ lack of sufficient information regarding abused and neglected children. The Seattle program achieved tremendous success, leading to its rapid and widespread adoption. There are 950 local CASA programs and a remarkable 75,000 volunteers actively involved across the nation as of today.

Every CASA volunteer plays a vital role in transforming the lives of these innocent children, deserving frequent recognition for the exceptional work they do within the community. I had the privilege of conversing with Emily Pouzar Jenkins, the President of the Tennessee state board for CASA. Her journey as a CASA volunteer began eight years ago, serving as the eyes and ears for her appointed children within the court system. Initially, she acted as an advocate, tirelessly striving to stabilize the cases of her assigned children. Mrs. Jenkins had the opportunity to interview anyone involved in the child’s life, gaining valuable insight into their situation. She collaborated with residential in-patient facilities, and foster homes, and supported families through the entire adoption process.

As her passion for CASA and her meaningful work grew, she assumed a position on the statewide CASA board and eventually became its President. In her current role, she offers guidance on grants, funding, operational matters, and training and resources to CASA locations nationwide. Primarily, her responsibility at the state level is to expand CASA’s reach, ensuring that every community can benefit from the support these children deserve.

Not only has Mrs. Jenkins’ work made a huge impact on the children and families she works with, but she has also emphasized that it has had a positive personal impact on herself. One story that she holds very close to her heart is a long journey of sticking with a family from birth to adoption. “I was able to walk with them from the day they walked out of the hospital with the child after birth and was placed with this foster family through adoption. I advocated for them all the way through and have continued to support that foster family. I have stayed very close to the adoptive mother and that has been a really sweet relationship to me. Seeing the children thrive in their new homes is truly incredible to witness,” said Mrs. Jenkins.

CASA’s volunteer work is creating positive ripples that reach children all across the nation. This remarkable team of lifesavers is undoubtedly making a significant impact in our community through their exceptional efforts. Emily Jenkins and CASA are true advocates for children.