Harrison County

Head of court-appointed child advocacy group is terminated

Hundreds of children a year are in Harrison County Chancery Court for hearings on foster care, adoptions and whether to terminate parental rights due to child neglect or abuse. CASA of Harrison County provides court-appointed, trained advocates who speak for the children in court and make recommendations on the children’s best interests.
Hundreds of children a year are in Harrison County Chancery Court for hearings on foster care, adoptions and whether to terminate parental rights due to child neglect or abuse. CASA of Harrison County provides court-appointed, trained advocates who speak for the children in court and make recommendations on the children’s best interests. Courtesy of CASA of Harrison County

Roy Kitchell Jr. has been terminated as executive director of CASA of Harrison County, a group whose work affects the lives of hundreds of children in child abuse and neglect cases.

The Court-Appointed Special Advocates’ executive board terminated him Monday, president Michele Gargiulo said.

“The executive board decided we want to go in a different direction, to get bigger and better,” she said. “I feel like the reasons are a personnel matter and confidential.”

The board wants to move in a different direction by exploring grants, increasing community involvement and training more volunteers, Gargiulo said.

Kitchell could not be reached for comment.

Harrison County has the state’s highest number of documented child victims of abuse and neglect, according to CASA’s website.

There’s more than 780 children in foster care in Harrison County and more than 1,200 cases of abused and neglected children, according to CASA’s latest available numbers.

In comparison, the less populated neighboring Hancock County had about 300 children in foster care in December.

Court-appointed advocates speak for neglected and abused children in court and make recommendations in their best interests. The goals include reuniting children with their parents when possible.

Much of CASA’s work is done by volunteers who are screened and appointed by a judge. CASA provides training and oversight.

CASA has trained more than 60 volunteer advocates. It’s goal by the end of 2016 was to train 100 volunteers. The cases of more than 450 children were in the court system last year.

CASA recently had a training session at an Orange Grove church and hopes to have more in the future, Gargiulo said.

The CASA program in Harrison County began Sept. 1, 2010, with help from a grant from the national CASA organization.

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