An uptick in court cases involving children has led to some changes for Pulaski County’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. CASAs are trained volunteers who help guide abused and neglected kids through the court system.
Up until now, Pulaski County’s CASA program has been managed by Family Advocates, an organization based in LaPorte that runs that county’s CASA program, along with some other services. But now, Pulaski Circuit Court Judge Michael Shurn says the county’s ready for its own, full-time CASA program. “We’re ever grateful for what they did to us,” he said. “They got us up and running, but now’s the time to be independent. We can save that premium we pay them for our management fee, that 15 to 20 percent. We could use that money here. She’s prepared to train new people.”
He told the Pulaski County Council Monday that the CASA program will now be run by the court itself, with Sara Kroft remaining as the county’s CASA Program Director. “Council was generous enough to raise the CASA budget by a couple thousand dollars,” Shurn said. “We can take the program full-time now. But we’ve asked to be independent from being part of LaPorte County, and she’s prepared to do the program independently, as a court program. Therefore, we will no longer be paying a service fee or a premium to LaPorte County to manage her.”
But Shurn says there are still a few issues to be resolved. He explained to the county commissioners last week that the CASA program gets funding from two state grants, a smaller one that the county gets every year and a larger one every two years. Up until now, all that money went to Family Advocates. Shurn said he’s working with the organization to get some of the money remaining from the two-year grant refunded to Pulaski County.