The Starke County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program is looking for more volunteers to help abused and neglected kids through the court system. They will be holding a training class for new volunteers starting next month.
Director Rhonda Adcock says the program hopes to add 15 more advocates this year, to keep up with the increase in need. “I became director four years ago and the year before I became director, there were 27 children who came into the system as a result of abuse and neglect,” she says. “In 2014, there were 50, and in 2015, there were 81, so the numbers are just continuing to rise. So our volunteers have stretched themselves. A lot of them are taking multiple cases now, and yet we just need – because of the numbers – we need more advocates.” In spite of the volunteers’ extra work, 11 children are still waiting to be assigned a CASA.
Adcock says they’re looking for volunteers who have at least five to 15 hours per month to give to the program, as well as reliable transportation to visit the children and gather information. Besides these practical requirements, she says a good CASA is simply a person who cares, “That person needs to have a passion for serving children, a passion to try and help, just a desire to make a difference in the life of a child.”
Classes begin at the end of February and last for nine weeks. They will usually be held Tuesday evenings from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., but there will also be two afternoons when new advocates will have the chance to sit in court to observe the process with the current CASAs.
Even though the start of class is still a few weeks away, Adcock says it helps to get an early start to the application process, “In order to become a CASA, we do a lot of background checks. First of all, this is our children that we’re dealing with in our county, and we can’t be too careful about all of that, so the process to get into the class can take a couple of weeks.” There’s also an interview process that new volunteers have to go through.
The training class is free of charge, but participants have to pay about $40 dollars for their fingerprints. That cost will be reimbursed if volunteers complete their training and serve as a CASA for one year.