CASA program seeking more money, volunteers
To volunteer or make a financial donation to CASA of Rock County, call (608) 305-0187, write to 51 S. Main St., Janesville, WI 53545 or go online to casarockcounty.org.
The next volunteer training a session is Tuesday, May 15. For details, call Connie Olson, CASA volunteer coordinator, at the number shown above.
JANESVILLE The siblings, ages 5 and 8, were physically abused by their parent's significant other.
The 2-year-old boy was found wandering in a busy street while his parent was under the influence of alcohol.
The baby girl was born addicted to heroin.
They are only a few examples among the 29 Rock County children waiting to be matched with Court Appointed Special Advocates of Rock County volunteers.
The volunteers "are the voice for the children who may not otherwise have a voice in the system deciding their lives," said Kim Churchill, local CASA volunteer and program manager.
Along with more volunteers, CASA also needs more money, she said.
Most of CASA's funding comes from grants and the United Way. Federal funding was cut 63 percent in July and is expected drop to zero for the next fiscal year.
CASA's umbrella organization—Family Services of Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, which is headquartered in Beloit—found some alternative funding but is seeking more.
CASA has 30 active volunteers and could handle 15 to 20 more, Churchill said.
"But in order to give volunteers the best supervision, we would need to increase our hours as well," Churchill said.
She and volunteer coordinator Connie Olson work part-time.
For now, Rock County Judge Alan Bates has largely stopped assigning new cases to CASA, Churchill said.
CASA volunteers advocate for the safety, health and emotional and physical development of children. Volunteers serve one child or family group at a time, and many CASA cases extend beyond one year, Churchill said.
"We do have 30 hours of initial training, ask for a one-year commitment, and on average the volunteer will spend 15 hours a week on their case. It's intensive, and you become pretty attached to the kids you serve. It takes a special type of person to do it,'' she said.
Churchill wants people to know CASA and its volunteers can make a difference by making a child's hopes and wishes known to the judge.
"We try to look at what would be in the best interest of the child and come up with a more creative solution to be able to reach the goal of the child," she said.
Unlike social workers with extensive caseloads, CASA volunteers have only one child or sibling group to focus on, Churchill said.
"The majority of people in these children's lives are paid to be there, where our volunteers are there by choice to be the voice for them in a governmental—courts and social services—system."