Many neglected and abused children in our region are often put in better homes based on a judge's ruling.

But before the judge makes a decision the Court Appointed Special Advocates or CASA makes a recommendation to the courts for what is best for the child

News 5 discovered that if CASA doesn't get enough volunteers, almost 60 kids in our region won't have an advocate to stand with them in court.

Bob and Pat Swartz have worked with kids for more than 40 years. "There's not too much of a difference between what we do now, than what we've done our entire lives," said Bob Swartz.

The Swartzes are retired schoolteachers turned child court advocates. "Having worked with children for so long, this was a natural, a no-brainer. During my years teaching middle school with teenagers, I did a lot of one-on-one counseling," said Bob Swartz.

The goal is to find neglected and abused kids a safe and permanent home. The Swartzes tell us their years of teaching experience certainly makes a difference.

The couple spends about 10 to 20 hours a week investigating their cases and going to court. They tell us by the end of the case they often see children who have a new outlook on life. "Eventually after about a year, you see them placed where they needed to be and they are much happier. Their eyes don't have the big dark circles anymore and they smile when they see you," said Pat Swartz.

The Swartzes and the rest of CASA's volunteers aren't paid for any of their work, and this year getting volunteers has been a challenge.

Currently CASA for Kids of Northeast Tennessee, which covers Washington, Greene and Unicoi counties, has 30 children on the list waiting for a court advocate.

While there aren't many qualifications needed to be a volunteer, Pat Swartz tells us there's one thing you must do. "You just have to care about them. And as you get to know them, they make you care about them. We've had kids we've stayed with well pass the court dates,"” said Pat.

CASA of Sullivan County, which also serves Hawkins County, is also in need of at least 30 volunteers.

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Northeast TN will provide advocacy training starting with an information session on Tuesday, January 28th from 5:30-6:30pm at the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce Building, 603 E. Market Street Johnson City, TN 37601.

CASA staff will inform interested community members about volunteer opportunities at CASA of Northeast TN.

The training will prepare individuals to become advocates for CASA, allowing them to participate in court appointed cases and to speak up for an abused and neglected child.

If you are interested in learning more about CASA or to apply for the training sessions their website.