By: Sue Wedemeyer, Frost Brown Todd LLC
Each year, an average of 7,500 children in Indiana are removed from their homes and placed in foster care. The length of stay can range from one month to three years, and in extreme cases, four to five years. While in foster care, there are court hearings, case management meetings, team meetings and services provided, all of which impact the child by affecting the outcome of their case. No matter the age, the child’s voice should be heard throughout the entire proceedings. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) are that voice. While there are many people involved and working on the case, the CASA is the only one whose sole responsibility is that of the child.
CASAs are volunteers appointed to a specific child by an order of the court which allows them to be involved in all aspects of the case. In addition to getting to know the child, the CASA will talk to the Department of Child’s Services case manager assigned to the child, the child’s parents and family members, foster parents, school counselors and doctors. They review court documents, medical records and school records. Through written reports they help the judge get to know the child since they generally do not attend the hearings. The reports keep the court informed of the progress being made and give information about and insights into the circumstances surrounding the case and makes recommendations based on what is in the best interest of the child.
Being a CASA has truly been one of the most rewarding experiences that I have had. I get the chance to know and be directly connected to and involved with the child. I love being their voice. These children are in these circumstances through no fault of their own and deserve to be heard. I have had the privilege of meeting and getting to know some incredible children who persevered despite what they had been subjected to, parents who did amazing things to turn their lives around for their children and DCS case workers who went above and beyond in order to ensure the safety of a child.
To learn how to become a CASA or to find more information about the program, you can visit the national website www.casaforchildren.org or the Indiana website www.in.gov/judiciary/galcasa. You can locate a program in your area at both sites. There is also information available through Child Advocates which serves Marion County at www.childadvocates.net. I would be glad to answer any questions if you are interested in volunteering. Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.