INDIANAPOLIS — About 6,000 children are waiting for someone to volunteer and become their court appointed special advocate.
Several hundred volunteers, lawmakers and judicial staff members rallied at the Statehouse Monday to help raise awareness for the state’s Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, program.
“The really unique thing about CASA — our volunteers are here because they choose to be here. It’s not their job,” Annette Craycraft, executive director of East Central Indiana CASA, said.
The Indiana CASA is the second biggest network in the country with over 4,000 volunteers in 79 of Indiana’s 92 counties.
CASA volunteers advocate for abused and neglected children to ensure they don’t get lost or overwhelmed by the court system. Volunteers stay with the child until his or her case is closed and the child is placed in a safe home.
Craycraft has been with CASA for 12 years and still remembers the first time she took on A case.
“It’s very nerve-racking at first,” Craycraft said. “At first, you are given a lot of responsibility and commitment to this child that you have never met before.”
But the children can sense that a volunteer wants to help them, Craycraft said. With social workers and service providers often moving in and out of their lives, the stability is a huge comfort.
“Most children really open up and start talking to you,” she said.
Volunteers spend 10 to 15 hours a month to their assigned child. Each court case with each child generally lasts a year.
“Giving an hour a week is more than what some kids get from their parents,” Danielle Bell, a staff member who handle tough cases, said. “SPCA is asking a dollar a day for animals, so why can’t children get an hour a week from a volunteer.”
New Pulaski County volunteer Patty Ploss joined after seeing a CASA ad on Facebook.
“It’s always been something I have wanted to do after seeing these kids in bad situations,” Ploss said.
Kayla Walker is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.