A program that helps abused and neglected children in state custody is putting out the call to recruit more volunteers.
CASA of Sedgwick County uses certified volunteers — court-appointed special advocates — to advocate for children who are removed from their homes and placed into temporary foster care.
CASA executive director Sandra Bradley says nearly 80 kids are currently in need of an advocate.
“The kids that are on our waiting list have been referred to us by the judge in their case, thinking that they could use the extra support of our services,” Bradley says.
CASA volunteers are matched with one child or one sibling group until the case is resolved. The advocates help children navigate the court system and provide detailed reports so judges can make decisions in the best interests of a child.
Bradley says CASAs provide stability in vulnerable children’s lives.
“They have more time to dedicate to the child, and learn the child’s story and help them get connected to the services that they need,” she says.
The CASA program currently has 62 active volunteers serving 117 kids. Eight people recently completed the six-week training course and are now certified to be an advocate. Bradley says more than 100 CASAs served 219 children to date this year.
She says it’s not uncommon to have a waiting list, but she says the number of kids in need of an advocate seems to rise in the fall.
“We strive to serve every child who needs a CASA, but the need is really great," Bradley says. "We are continuously in need of caring individuals to volunteer their time to support these kids."
Bradley says research shows children with a CASA spend less time in foster care and have better outcomes in school.
There are 23 CASA programs in Kansas. CASA of Sedgwick County was the first in the state when it started in 1981 and only serves the Sedgwick County Judicial District.
The next training class to become a CASA volunteer begins in mid-January.