The Starke County Council last week approved an additional appropriation for a program that helps children throughout the community. Rhonda Adcock is the director of Starke County CASA. The acronym stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. Adcock says it’s an arm of Starke Circuit Court, with volunteers who advocate for children who are in family court due to abuse or neglect.
“These are the kids who you see playing on the splash pad or sitting next to your children or grandchildren in the school classrooms,” Adcock told the council. “Our CASA volunteers are very dedicated individuals who don’t get paid for what they do. They spend hours upon hours every month advocating for the children in our county with no monetary gain, although all of them will tell you that it’s very worth what we do.”
The Starke County CASA program started in 1988 and has seen a steady growth in the need for its services. Adcock says each child who needed a CASA had one immediately until about a year ago.
“So now our children instead of having a CASA volunteer waiting for them when they come into the court system, they have to wait about three months. And a lot can happen in the life of a child in three months. We don’t want that to continue.”
Adcock says demand for CASA services is growing statewide. The Indiana Supreme Court increased funding for the program, but in order to draw down the maximum available match an additional $4,000 in funds is needed. Starke Circuit Judge Kim Hall had already submitted his $9,000 annual appropriation request when the county became aware of the matching opportunity.
Adcock says CASA volunteers provide a tremendous value to the children they serve.
“Probably 85 percent of our cases have a drug component of some kind, and if the parents are worried about getting their drugs they’re probably not taking the kids to get their shots. So we try to really match the child with the need and find a way to get the need met.”
The county council approved the additional appropriation request unanimously.