Editor's Note: This article is sponsored by Ashland Parenting Plus.
The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program, operated by Parenting Plus, is asking for community members’ help to support and serve the most vulnerable children in Knox and Ashland counties this holiday season.
While the holidays are a time to make happy memories with family for many, it can often be a very difficult time of the year for the children in our communities who have experienced abuse or neglect. Many of these children have been removed from their homes and are transitioning into new homes and schools. It’s a heavy burden for a child to carry alone any time of year, but especially during the holidays.
That’s why CASA and its team of volunteers and advocates are so important.
A CASA volunteer is a caring, consistent adult who is there for a child experiencing the loneliness and uncertainty of the holiday season. When a child has a dedicated CASA volunteer by their side they have someone who will speak up for their best interests in the courtroom and community, and someone who will help them find the road to a safe and permanent home.
CASA volunteers work to ensure that every child has the opportunity to thrive and heal.
“Our volunteers do a wonderful job connecting with children and families,” said Jennifer Keller, attorney and program manager for Parenting Plus CASA. “Their recommendations are invaluable to the Court.”
Parenting Plus’s CASA program began serving children in Ashland County in 2017 and expanded into Knox County in spring 2021. Keller is proud of how the program has continued to grow despite challenges like the COVID pandemic and two substantial cuts in VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) funding.
“The program started with 7 active volunteers and has grown to nearly 40 since we started, but we are nowhere near done,” said Keller.
Most volunteers are appointed to one or two cases at a time. With approximately 150 children in the Ashland County child welfare system and approximately 150 children in the Knox County child welfare system, the need is great.
If you have ever considered becoming a foster parent, but haven’t been able to make the commitment, or just want to help children in need, becoming a CASA volunteer is a great way to make a difference in the life of a child.
CASA volunteers visit the child once or twice a month. They are responsible to meet and maintain contact with the adults in the child’s life, facilitate services, encourage progress, and submit reports with recommendations to the Court. Overall, the time commitment is approximately 10 hours each month for the life of the case, which is typically 1 to 2 years.
“We're really just looking for safe adults (age 21 and over) with a heart for children who are interested in making sure that the child's needs are met and that they can have a safe and permanent home as soon as possible,” said Keller.
The CASA program will have its next training for volunteers in February 2022. Those chosen to become a volunteer will have interviews and background checks done prior to the training.
There are several ways you can support the vulnerable children in the community this holiday season and all year long.
First, become a donor. Your gift helps the Parenting Plus CASA program reach more children. Click here to make a donation.
Second, Parenting Plus CASA invites everyone to become an advocate for vulnerable children by spreading the word about the CASA program - where ordinary citizens become extraordinary advocates for children.