Several newly-trained Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers began their first full week of service on Monday. The nine volunteers were sworn-in late last week by Bartholomew County Juvenile Magistrate Heather Mollo as officers of the court.
In their new roll, these volunteers will work directly with area victims of child abuse and neglect, working to ensure that their needs are met and that their best interests are front and center in the court system. CASA volunteers do the work needed to make sure that judges, and others, hear the voices of these children in Bartholomew, Decatur and Jennings Counties.
Magistrate Mollo spoke to the CASA volunteers before administering their oaths.
“On behalf of the family court judges of the State of Indiana, thank you,” Mollo said. “Compared with you, my time with these children is often formal and brief. You are the one who provides the critical detail. Thank you for your heart.”
Advocates for Children is already looking ahead to the next training session. Rick Scalf, the agency’s Community Outreach Coordinator, said a record number children being removed from their homes is putting more pressure on the system. He says this pressure is increasing the importance of volunteers.
“The Department of Child services recently announce that 2015 is a record year for child abuse and neglect,” Scalf said. “We’ve already doubled the rate of cases from 2014. With the child protection system under that kind of pressure, and each department’s case load rising, it’s more important than ever to have someone standing next to these children, making sure that they don’t slip through the cracks.”
Scalf went on to say that Advocates for Children has seen increases in their waiting list in all three counties they serve. He says the children on these lists have already been removed from their homes, but do not yet an advocate speaking on their behalf.
Individuals interested in learning more about becoming a CASA volunteer or the upcoming training session are urged to call Advocates for Children at (812) 372-2808, or visit the agency online at www.apowerfulvoice.org.