WARSAW — Kosciusko County Superior Court I Judge David Cates swore in five new CASA volunteers at a ceremony held Wednesday, March 15. These individuals completed 33 hours of training to become Court Appointed Special Advocates.
CASA is a nonprofit organization that advocates for abused or neglected children. Our local CASA was formed in 1993. There are approximately 83 CASA programs in the state of Indiana.
Mackenzie Cloutier, executive director, states that if someone calls the abuse hotline and reports abuse or neglect, the Department of Child Services does an investigation. If there is enough evidence to convince a judge that abuse or neglect has happened and they believe court intervention is needed, they petition the court and ask that the child be declared a child in need of services. If the judge agrees that the child is a CHINS, the judge is then required by Indiana law to assign a CASA or guardian ad litem.
According to Cloutier, “We focus on the child and what is best for the child.”
Judge Cates stated that he enjoys administering the oath to the new CASA volunteers. He thanked the new volunteers for going through the training process and for the effort they will be putting forth on behalf of the children of Kosciusko County. Cates stated, “CASAs are the eyes and ears of the court in matters involving the kids.”
Currently 53 volunteers are serving 105 children. Cates said, “It is a continuing need.” There are still many custody disputes which would benefit from having a CASA volunteer assigned.
To become a CASA advocate you must pass a background check, participate in a 33-hour training course and agree to stay with a case until it is closed, which can typically last up to 18 months.
CASA volunteers work closely with the parents, relatives, teachers, pastors and others directly involved in each child’s life.
If you are unable to make the 18-month commitment to become an advocate, there are other ways to support CASA. Cloutier stated they will hold three fundraisers this year: a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, a 100-hole golf outing and CASA’s 16th annual holiday fest.
April is child abuse prevention month. In honor of this, CASA will be planting a pinwheel garden on the south lawn of the courthouse at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 12. CASA encourages the community to join them there to plant the pinwheels, which are the symbol of child abuse prevention. Also in April, during the week of April 10-14, Redwood Grill & Bar will be donating ten percent of all orders between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to CASA, and Clearwater Car Wash will be donating $2 from each car wash on Thursday, April 20, to benefit CASA.
Darla Adams, one of the five new CASA volunteers sworn in at the ceremony, states that she decided to become a volunteer, “As a way to make a difference in the community. The children are innocent victims.”