Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Bradley and Polk Counties added five new volunteer advocates during a recent swear-in ceremony conducted by Judge Ashley Ivey.

Those sworn-in included: Gina Bell, Vera Dorman, Paulina Everett, Kathy Fickley, and Christy McGrew. These volunteers will now go on to advocate for a child that is involved in our local court system due to abuse and neglect.

The swearing-in ceremony was held via video conference due to the court’s recent restrictions due to the pandemic.

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we are grateful that our volunteers recognize that advocacy for our community’s most vulnerable children cannot stop,” stated Advocate Manager, Natalie Barrionuevo. “We have had to make adjustments to help to ensure that our volunteers and clients stay safe, as we continue to lift up the voices of the abused and neglected children of our community.”

Prior to being sworn in by the judge, the volunteers completed an extensive training process conducted by the CASA staff. The sessions were all virtual due to the pandemic. Each volunteer completed 15 hours of training with Barrionuevo via video conference. The volunteers also completed another 15 hours of training using the National CASA/GAL Association’s online training platform.

“I’ve been very blessed in life. People have helped me along the way and I want to give back by helping along the way also,” said newly sworn-in advocate Gina Bell. “We can all contribute something and I’m fortunate enough to be able to volunteer with CASA at this point in my life.”

In 2020, according to the Tennessee Commission on Children Youth, there were over 1,700 cases of reported child abuse in Bradley and Polk Counties. In 2020 alone, CASA advocated on behalf of 200 new children and continued working with over 100 more assigned in previous years. Additional volunteers help to increase CASA’s capacity to serve more children in Bradley and Polk Counties.

CASA is always accepting applications from community members interested in becoming volunteer advocates. The next advocate pre-service training program will be held in the spring. Those interested in the program can learn more by emailing, or by calling the CASA office at (423) 472-5800.

CASA is funded under grant contracts with the State of Tennessee, United Way of the Ocoee Region, and The National CASA/GAL Association.