Sherley works as volunteer supervisor at CASA of the South Plains

Each day, Lauren Sherley adds tidbits of information to her case files — information with the potential to change a young life.

Sherley is a volunteer supervisor for CASA of the South Plains, a group which serves as child advocates in court cases. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates.

CASA began in Seattle in 1977. A Lubbock County judge first appointed a CASA volunteer to serve as an abused child’s advocate in 1993.

Since that time, more than 5,000 children have been provided more than 1,000 advocates.

The program, which was founded by Karen Balzen, has grown from two employees to 10 full-time staff and more than 100 volunteers since its inception in 1995.

The Lubbock area had the highest number of confirmed victims of child abuse per capita in the state in 2005.

CASA of the South Plains currently has 350 children in need of a CASA volunteer.

Children who suffer abuse or neglect are 53 percent more likely to become juvenile delinquents, 38 percent more likely to be arrested as adults and 38 percent more likely to become violent criminals.

Sherley has between 35 and 40 case files. Each represents a different case a CASA volunteer is working on. CASA volunteers research the cases of children who have been removed from their homes for various reasons.

The 24-year-old CASA worker also investigates a child’s life, family, friends neighbors or teachers. She presents the information to the court. A judge uses the material to render a decision with the child’s best interest in mind. The system, when it works, inspires Sherley.

“Sometimes something happens in a case where you can see your work paid off and you can make a difference in a child’s life,” said Sherley. “ … It can be something as large as taking your records to the judge and he sides with you or it could be something as small as a bit of information for a caseworker.”

Sherley graduated last year with a master’s degree in human development and family studies at Texas Tech. She started working at CASA of the South Plains in August.

“I’ve always had a heart for nonprofit work and organizations like CASA,” she said.

Her heart for nonprofit work may have come from her parents. Sherley’s father, Matt, was a police officer and her mother, Cheri, was a teacher when she grew up in Amarillo. She said hearing her mother and father’s stories of children may have played a part on some unconscious level in selecting her career.

“I think the work I do is an off-shoot of what they’ve done,” she said.

Sherley could see herself working for CASA five years from now.

“I think the work we are doing here is needed. I am glad to be here.”

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