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CASA Receives Special Diversity Grant

Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, of Southwest Missouri has just received a $3,500 grant dedicated to providing cultural competency training. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann talked with a spokesperson for CASA and has this report.

CASA of Southwest Missouri is part of a national program, which uses trained volunteers to assist abused and neglected children going through the foster care system. Volunteers, staff, and board members are all expected to take part in ongoing training, to better serve the ever-changing needs of these children. Although Greene County historically has not been a widely diverse population, it continues to grow and move in that direction. Dan Prater is spokesperson for CASA of Southwest Missouri, and says that cultural diversity and sensitivity are vital parts of the child advocate’s role.

"Nationally as well as locally, CASA is very committed to increasing cultural competency. We work with children who are in foster care. One of the things we want to be sureofiswhen one of our child advocates aregoing into homes, andthey are talking to children andtheir families, that they understand and respectthe different cultures they are working within." Prater said.

The grant which CASA has received is from the Allen P. and Josephine B. Green Foundation, which is a private foundation located in Mexico, Missouri. The Green Foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life in Missouri, and one very important way is through education and understanding. CASA plans to use the money by adding even more training on cultural diversity and awareness. Prater says that the topic of diversity includes many things.

"Of course the term 'culturally diverse' doesn't just mean skin color. You know we're trying toreach folks who have geographical diversity, as well as educational diversity, religious diversity, and I would go so far as to saysexual orientation [diversity]." Prater said.

Prater says that the National CASA programs, as well as the local Southwest Missouri program, are deeply committed to increasing cultural competency.

"One of the terms we have thrown around that I really like is 'having courageous converstation'. And we want to continue to have the courageous converstations to discuss our own feelings, andthen examine those feelings. Alsoto take us deeper to realize that whenwe're talking about cultural competency, it's the understanding that there is no 'right or wrong', only different." Prater said.

CASA of Southwest Missouri currently serves 147 out of the approximately 900 children who are in foster care in Greene County. Click here for more information about CASA. For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.