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James L. White/Staff

Court Appointed Special Advocates of North Arkansas director Tracie Pape addresses finance and advocate case load during this week’s meeting of the board of directors.

Tracie Pape, director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of North Arkansas (CASA), gave the board of directors a rundown on finance and advocate case numbers when the board met this week.

CASA is a nonprofit organization which provides trained, community volunteers who advocate for abused and neglected children from newborn to age 18. Volunteers give hope, and a voice, to those children who would otherwise stand alone while in the foster care system, a press release said.

The organization has been battling to come back financially after former director Katie Rylee was arrested on allegations of misusing CASA funds. She has pleaded not guilty to those charges and is scheduled to appear in court again Feb. 7, online court records show.

Pape told the board this week that the organization has $9,659.49 in an account at Equity Bank. In addition, there is $280.37 in an account at Arvest Bank and that account must be left open due to the ongoing criminal investigation.

A line of credit at Equity Bank in the amount of $9,269.63 matures later this month and board president Chonda Tapley was scheduled to renew it and possibly even asking for an increase in order to pay back taxes that went unpaid, Pape said.

She said she anticipated receiving the state CASA payment of $16,000 this week and she was going to submit an invoice of about $6,300 for reimbursement through the Victims of Crime Act, or VOCA, federal grant.

Pape told the board that one new advocate finished training and was recently sworn in and was assigned her first case Tuesday. Another advocate is scheduled to be sworn in next month.

Pape explained that the organization currently has 38 open DHS cases in Baxter County, 42 in Boone County and six in Marion, although not all of those cases have advocates assigned. There are 31 advocates assigned to cases.

She explained that the local CASA needs another three advocates to qualify for the current level of state CASA funding.

“But I did commit to recruiting and training 12 advocates for VOCA,” Pape said. “So, we’re on track to do that.”

She went on to say that there are other potential advocates lined up, but she is making sure how the self-guided curriculum works before starting more training. She helped with the first two. Six people had cleared the initial application process and reference checks and they will start training soon.

“And it takes four to six weeks to get them through the guided learning,” she said. “Hopefully over the next couple of months we’ll swear in one or two a month.”

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