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CASA asks churches, civic groups for help

A Danville-based non-profit that tries to protect children who have been abused or neglected is hoping churches, civic groups and other community-focused organizations will step up to help.

“There is a huge need right now. Since January, our jurisdiction has had over 300 new children enter the family court system due to abuse (or) neglect,” said Jessica Johnson, program development coordinator for CASA of the Bluegrass. “Our communities are overwhelmed with cases. They just can’t assign us to every case because we do not have enough CASA volunteers to take on every case that comes through … because of that, we are usually appointed to some of the most difficult cases.

“We want to be able to provide advocacy services to all children in the system. To do that, we need more community members to step up.”

CASA stands for court-appointed special advocate. CASA volunteers are assigned one case at a time in the family court system; they visit with children, parents, family members, foster parents, educators and others involved in the case and provide reports to the judge.

“The main priority is a safe and permanent home,” Johnson said, noting that cases with CASAs assigned also tend to conclude sooner so that children spend less time in foster care, are more likely to be adopted if they are older and gain “increased education, emotional and medical services.” Such positive outcomes help break the “cycle of generational abuse,” she said.

“For many churches and civic organizations, CASA’s mission dovetails nicely” with their beliefs, Johnson said, explaining why CASA is issuing its request for such organizations to consider helping.

While CASA of the Bluegrass can definitely use more volunteers, organizations can also help with monetary or in-kind donations. And Johnson said she is available to speak with groups about CASA’s role in the community and what a group might be able to do.

Right now, CASA of the Bluegrass has about 75 active volunteers serving Boyle and Mercer counties, Johnson said.

“Our volunteer population ebbs and flows,” she said. “… We ask all our CASA volunteers to commit to one year of service, as it is CASA’s goal for each child to have volunteer continuity.”

The next training for new CASA volunteers begins at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17. Johnson said more information is available by emailing her at jessica@casaofthebluegrass.org; or by visiting casaofthebluegrass.org. Donations are also accepted on the organization’s website, or through the mail at CASA of the Bluegrass, P.O. Box 45, Danville, KY 40423.

“We can’t help everyone,” Johnson said. “But everyone can help someone.”