CASA volunteers work for kids

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By The Staff

CASA Volunteer  and Chairperson of the CASA: Henry, Oldham and Trimble Counties Advisory Council

There is nothing like a beautiful April day in Kentucky to remind us that cold, dreary winters eventually give way to fresh breezes and spring blooms. If we just wait long enough, nature will reward our patience with a sense of renewal and hope that comes this time of year.  Perhaps it is the icy weather of this winter or the economic turmoil that touches us all, but this year, spring feels particularly rewarding. 

It’s fitting that spring would be the time when we are asked to remember the children of our community who do not have that sense of renewal and hope in their own lives. April is designated Child Abuse Prevention month, a reminder that thousands of children are waiting for their “spring break” every day of the year.

In Henry County, nearly 80 children suffer the fear, isolation and pain of abuse or neglect each year. Eighty children and youth are in the Family Court, needing the security, safety and support to live the healthy, carefree life every child deserves. 

Fortunately, about one in four of these children have a volunteer advocate working on their behalf in court, school and their homes.  Appointed by Judge Tim Feeley in the 12th District Family Court, CASA volunteers work diligently to determine what is in the best interest of the child and advocate for positive outcomes. The volunteer stays with each case until the child is placed in a safe, permanent home.

CASA volunteers working in Henry County are part of a nationwide program, Court Appointed Special Advocates, that recruits, trains and supports volunteers who speak up for abused and neglected children.  The local chapter of CASA has been expanding since 2007 and now serves more than 500 children a year in a six county region around Henry County.  

After 30 hours of initial training, CASA volunteers work for Judge Feeley to review and monitor cases of children who become part of the family court system because of abuse or neglect. CASA volunteers work closely with the child and family to bring an independent assessment of the case to court, recommending to the Judge what is best for the child’s future. In close coordination with a volunteer supervisor, CASA volunteers present a detailed report to Judge Feeley that outlines the child’s situation and current needs.

These efforts are doing positive things for Henry County children and families.  Children with CASA volunteers receive more services and are more likely to be settled in a permanent home (with adoptive or birth parents). They move out of foster care more quickly and are much less likely to reenter the child welfare system.

 Ideally, the children and youth of Henry County would never experience abuse or neglect of any kind. Child Abuse Prevention month reminds us that communities can alleviate and eliminate child abuse with coordinated efforts throughout the year. To accomplish this goal, every member of the community must play a part: help a struggling family to find the services or support they need, make a donation to a charity that serves at-risk children or become involved in CASA.

Trained and committed CASA volunteers are always needed. In Henry County, as many as five families are waiting for an advocate.  Advisory committee members are also needed to plan fundraising activities and office volunteers are needed to keep operations running smoothly.  There are opportunities for everyone in the community to contribute as donors, volunteers and advocates of the CASA program. 

To learn more about the CASA program, check out the national organization’s Web site at http://www.nationalcasa.org/.  To find out how you can bring “a little spring” into the lives of abused or neglected children in Henry County, contact CASA Coordinator Sherri Caldwell at 225-4424 or sherri@casajc.org.

The Henry County CARE Team would like to invite you to our own child abuse prevention event of Celebration KIDS from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 25, at New Castle Elementary School. This event highlights the excitement of children through games, prizes, music, dancing, inflatable fun, great door prizes and much more! We also showcase the many services available in our community as well as more information on the detection and prevention of child abuse.

The Henry County CARE Team is proud to have CASA as a coalition partner. For more information about the work of the Henry County CARE Team, please contact our office at (502) 878-0001.  You can also make plans to attend our monthly coalition meetings held on the second Wednesday of each month at the Henry County Public Library.  The meetings are held at NOON and lunch is provided, however, we do request an RSVP and a minimal monetary donation or $3 to help off-set the cost of the meal.  We hope that you will consider joining the “Team”!