A program that shepherds abused and neglected children through the court system needs more volunteer advocates to serve as voices for the youngsters they serve. Starke County CASA Director Rhonda Adcock says the number of children served by the program has exploded since she took over as director seven years ago. “The year before that there were 21 children who came into the system as a result of abuse or neglect. Last year it was in the mid-70s. So the number of children coming into the system per year has tripled since I’ve been director. When I became director we had about 15 volunteers who were actively working cases. We now have 29 who are actively working cases.”
Adcock says that has created a backlog in the system.
“We have 30 children right now waiting who, if I had a volunteer trained and ready today, I could assign them today. These children are going through their court cases without someone to be their voice, without someone to take care of putting it all together and to voice all of the little things that are important to a child but can easily get missed by a professional DCS worker.”
Adcock says those children work with other professionals, but they are stretched thin.
“They might have a therapist and a doctor and a DCS caseworker, and all those people are wonderful. But those people might have 25 to 30 children on their caseload. A CASA has one family or two families. If they have a family of two and a family of one they have three children, versus the 25 to 30, so we can spend the additional time and attention the child needs to make them comfortable and lessen the trauma of going through a court case.”
CASA volunteers spend between five and 15 hours a month advocating for the children in their care. The next CASA Volunteer training sessions begin on March 21st. All will be scheduled in the evenings. Call 574-772-7200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.