State funding allowing CASA of the Bluegrass to expand its efforts

This is the first year that CASA programs, which provide advocates for children’s interests in family court cases, have received state funding. At CASA of the Bluegrass, which serves Boyle, Franklin, Mercer and Anderson counties, that means $52,600 has been made available for an increase in staffing and better facilities. It means simple things like buying enough office supplies are easier, too, said Executive Director Laura Guerrant.

“We have been so used to just penny-pinching everything that to be able to update even just a printer and computer is a huge deal,” Guerrant said.

Kentucky’s current two-year budget allocates $3 million to be spent on CASA programs. That funding is made available through grants from the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet to expand or improve existing CASA offices or open entirely new ones, according to the Kentucky CASA Network.

CASA stands for court-appointed special advocates. Judges in family court systems appoint CASA volunteers to court cases involving children who may have been neglected or abused. CASA volunteers spend time with the child or children they are assigned to, and interview family members, teachers, therapists and others involved in a child’s life. The volunteers then file reports with the judge, explaining what they have learned and advocating for what they believe will help the child find a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible.

“We were one of only six states in the U.S. that didn’t receive state funding (for CASA programs),” Guerrant said.

Now with funding available, one goal is the opening of new CASA offices, especially in eastern Kentucky, she said.

“If you look at a map of where our CASA programs are located, there is nothing in eastern Kentucky,” she said.

CASA of the Bluegrass isn’t 100-percent sure how much it will get next year, but Guerrant said she expects to get at least the same $52,600 again, with the possibility of applying for more.

“This is kind of like the test year,” she said. “(We’re finding out) how much our programs need, how much of it is going toward start-ups for locations that don’t have CASA programs.”

Guerrant said a concern CASA leaders have had is that with state funding available, people might think their support for CASA is no longer needed. That’s not true — the need for support is still there and the demand for CASA volunteers is growing, she said.

The current opioid crisis is creating a large number of family court cases in need of CASA volunteers.

“It’s one of those things where the demand keeps going up and we just keep needing more volunteers,” Guerrant said.

There’s also no guarantee that state funding continues after the current two-year cycle, she noted.

“We don’t know how long this will last,” she said.

SO YOU KNOW

• A second pair of VIP meet-and-greet tickets to see Kenny Rogers live in concert at Norton Center for the Arts is currently up for grabs on eBay, under “Two VIP tickets to meet Kenny Rogers.”  The first pair sold for $1,375, all of which will go directly to CASA. The direct link to the auction is: ebay.com/itm/TWO-VIP-Passes-To-Meet-KENNY-ROGERS-TWO-Concert-Tickets-4-8-17-Danville-KY-/132139349539, and bidding will be accepted through 7 p.m. April 5. 

• For more information about CASA of the Bluegrass, to donate or to find out about volunteering, visit casaofthebluegrass.org.