CASA is voice for the defenseless child

courtesy of KPC news

It’s all about giving a voice to children — children caught in bitter, sometimes tragic struggles between parents, lawyers and other adults.

Children who are victims of their parents’ poverty, addiction, poor judgment, abuse or more.

These defenseless children would be powerless, figuratively — or perhaps literally — hidden in dark corners were it not for the dedicated staff and volunteers of the Northeastern Indiana Court-Appointed Special Advocates. Through CASA they receive love, encouragement, guidance and hope.

Northeastern Indiana CASA, founded in 1986, is certified by the national CASA organization as well as by a division of the Indiana Supreme Court, which sees CASA’s work as vital.

“We are currently serving more than 200 children in the five counties of Noble, LaGrange, Steuben, DeKalb and Whitley,” said Kristi Bachman, executive director. Most of the children are infants to age 18, but a few are older.

“We want to be the voice in court for the child so that the judge knows what is in the child’s best interest,” she said. “Sometimes what is in the child’s best interest is different from what the parents want; we are there to just focus on the child.

“For example, we might feel the child should be placed in the home or outside the home with a relative or foster care or allowed to see both parents … We want to ensure that if the children are placed in different homes, they get to see their siblings. It is very important to maintain those family relationships.”

A CASA volunteer also might help with what Bachman calls simple things, “like maybe they were removed from their home and their glasses didn’t get brought with them. Or maybe they have never been to a dentist.”

In short, anything that the child needs is what a CASA volunteer is focused on.

Bachman said most of the children are victims of abuse or neglect — physical, sexual or emotional neglect. A high percentage of the cases involve situations where meth or other substances were involved, and 98 to 99 percent of the cases also have poverty as an underlying issue.

Currently CASA has 40 trained volunteers; some of the volunteers serve several children or have more than one case. “We hope to get more advocates as a result of the event and the publicity,” Bachman said.

The next training for advocates begins in May.

Northeastern Indiana CASA’s only fundraiser of the year will be Friday, April 24, at Sylvan Cellars Event Center in Rome City.

The fifth annual CASA Palooza will feature 11 restaurants, serving everything from prime rib to lobster bisque to salads and desserts; a variety of wine and beer selections and good music.

“Our goal is not only to raise funds but to raise awareness,” said Bachman. “There will be a short presentation to explain more about what we do and the need for CASA.”

Bachman said they are “very excited to be at this new location.”

Max Platt Ford Lincoln has donated a three-month lease of a 2013 Ford Mustang convertible, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There will also be numerous gift baskets, a silent auction and a “Fund a Need” auction.

Tickets are $50 per person. For more information, phone 636-6101 or go online toneincasa.net.

Northeastern Indiana CASA serves Noble, DeKalb, Steuben, LaGrange and Whitley counties.