Haunted house returns to Cumming in October

CASA helps Forsyth County’s neglected and abused children

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CUMMING, Ga. — A nonprofit organization that helps young children wants to scare them in October.

Next month, CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates of Forsyth County, will host a haunted house in the parking lot of Stars and Strikes, 133 Merchants Square in Cumming.

The haunted house will run each weekend throughout the month of October.

“We’re always looking for actors and volunteers to work the event,” said Janet Walden, executive director of CASA of Forsyth County.

Walden said her organization was started in the 1970s by a judge in Seattle who sat on the bench and listened to parents and the Division of Family and Children’s Services as they tried to figure out the truth.

“He knew it was somewhere in there,” Walden said, “but wasn’t sure where, and he wanted an objective eye. So he created the CASA concept, which was that trained volunteers would go out and get objective information so the best decisions could be made.”

At any given time, CASA works with anywhere from about 135 to 145 children, Walden said.

“Once a child is removed from a home, CASA becomes involved,” she said.

CASA is comprised of about 95 volunteers who work with the juvenile court system and represent the best interest of children.

Volunteers receive 30 hours of face-to-face and online training and 10 additional hours of courtroom observation.

“You can’t help but feel some kind of attachment to these kids,” said a volunteer, “but you have to step back emotionally and consider all aspects of the situation to determine what’s best for the child.”

The organization has two full-time case managers who work with volunteers to manage their cases on investigative, legal and emotional levels.

“Ultimately, we want to return the child to their home, but sometimes it’s not always what’s best, and we have to recommend other options to the court,” Walden said. “You’d be surprised where our cases come from. Most are cases of neglect.

“They may start out as too many missed school days, but that’s never the only problem,” she said. “In fact, it’s usually a symptom of something bigger.”

CASA relies on the generosity of volunteers and local businesses to keep the program running.

For those interested in volunteering with CASA as a guardian, the next training is scheduled for January.

“We are always in need of volunteers, but especially male volunteers,” Walden said. “There are many young boys who come into our program and need a strong male to help them.”

Applications are available at www.forsythcountycasa.org.

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