CASA talks to Rotary about being special advocates

Published 6:07 am Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Danville Rotary

Each year nearly 800,000 children are confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in the U.S. and the number continues to grow. CASA of the Bluegrass is a private, non-profit  organization that provides advocacy services for abused, neglected and abandoned children under the protection of the Family Court. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. Jessica Johnson serves as the program development coordinator at CASA for Boyle Mercer counties.

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The mission of CASA is to advance the best interests of abused and neglected children in Anderson, Boyle, Franklin and Mercer county family court systems. CASA of the Bluegrass has now served this community for 12 years and has grown to 118 fully trained volunteers who help close cases every year.

A CASA community volunteer is appointed by Family Court Judge Bruce Petrie, for the 50th Judicial Circuit. They speak up for the best interests of abused, neglected or dependency children in Boyle and Mercer counties who are brought before court for reasons of abuse, neglect or dependency and bring urgency to a child’s needs, both in and out of the courtroom. CASA volunteers submit recommendations that they have created on the basis of their independently investigated information.

Photo contributed
Jessica Johnson, program development coordinator for CASA, spoke to Rotary Club of Danville recently about being court appointed advocates.

CASA volunteers are a proven solution. The kids who receive CASA services spend less time in home care. They do better in school. They’re more likely to graduate and then make a safe and permanent home. They are less likely to reenter the system, and even better, they are less likely to continue the cycle of abuse and neglect. That’s what CASA is about, breaking the cycle.

“So I want to show you a video that’s pretty near and dear to my heart. It’s the story about Isabella, who was an important part of my life for over two years,” Johnson said. Isabella is 7 years old now and doing very well.

In 2017, CASA of the Bluegrass advocated for 296 individual child victims, and assisted in closing 141 cases and finding permanency for 141 children, ensuring that they have a safe and permanent home. The disheartening news is that between Mercer and Boyle counties, there are still over 220 cases that were not provided with an acceptable solution.  More volunteer advocates are sorely needed. The first training session has been completed in 2018. A total of three training sessions are held each year. Graduates of the first session were sworn in recently.

The required training takes 30 hours to complete.  Advocates are assigned one case at a time, but that case may have two or more siblings. Their ages can range from birth to age 18. If you are objective and are able to interact with people of various educational, economic and ethnic backgrounds — you could be an effective CASA volunteer.  In 2017, 118 co-workers, friends and family members decided that it is the human rights of every child to grow in a safe and nurturing home was so important that they took the training needed to speak for those children by becoming volunteer advocates.

“I invite all of you to support The CASA Derby Eve Gala, our annual fundraiser for Anderson, Boyle, Franklin, and Mercer Counties. Please come and enjoy the hospitality of our Commonwealth.  I brought some invitations with me for this year’s event, which will be held right here at the Danville Country Club on May 4 at 7 pm. There will be a raffle, a silent auction, a cash bar and a live band.”