Volunteers are being sought for Southeastern Indiana Voices for Children Inc. The children's advocacy group represents children suspected of being abused or neglected.

The group is offering a class beginning April 6 that will train volunteers to become court-appointed special advocates for children. Volunteers are trained to represent the best interest of children both inside and outside of the courtroom by working with attorneys, mental health professionals and service providers to meet the needs of children.

Pam Moon, program director for Southeastern Indiana Voices for Children, said that court-appointed advocates are responsible for making sure the child's needs are heard.

"We speak up for the child. We investigate the case and recommend to court what's in best interest of that child," Moon said. "That could be staying at home, being taken out of the home or something else entirely."

Moon said that there are currently 31 children in Jefferson and Ripley counties that are on a waiting list for a court appointed special advocate.

"That's more than we've ever had," she said.

Moon added that the only qualifications for being an advocate are being at least 21 years old and a valid driver's license. There is also a background check that volunteers must pass.

"Truthfully, some of these kids come from pretty dire situations. It's hard for them to see light at the end of the tunnel at times. We try to help them do that."

Volunteers are required to see the child they're appointed to at least once a month. According to Moon, the average time requirement for a volunteer is between eight and 10 hours each month.

There are currently four volunteers signed up to take the course, but Moon said they would like at least 20 to help deal with demand.

Moon said steps are being taken to make becoming an advocate easier for someone who wants to volunteer.

"We're doing it a little bit differently than we've done in the past," she said.

Half of the new volunteer training class will be able to be taken online. "It allows volunteers to work at their own pace," Moon said. "Before, they were spending eight hours in a classroom at once. This allows us to meet on a Saturday morning until noon. Then the volunteers can do whatever they need to do for next weeks class online. It frees up a lot of time," she said.

Anyone interested should call (812) 599-2630.