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December 6, 2013

CASA advocate for abused children

MT. VERNON — —

An organization that impacts the community has been recognized by United Way of South Central Illinois.

CASA — an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocates — receives funding through United Way for its child advocacy program.

The United Way's thermometer in which success has previously been measured has been displayed in the community for 30 years. This year each time the thermometer moves up, it signifies a specific community impact program that is funded because of the investment made by the donors, businesses and organizations that support United Way.

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don't get lost in the overburdened legal and social system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives.

The mission of CASA of Jefferson County is to draw from community resources to provide well-trained volunteers who will advocate in the court system for abused and neglected children, provide needed information to the court and serve these children's best interests quickly and efficiently.

Independent research has demonstrated that children with a CASA volunteer are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care and less likely to re-enter care. CASE of Jefferson County currently serves 25 families and about 62 children. Their goal is to serve 100 percent of the abused and neglected children in Jefferson County.

The advocate must be willing to commit to the program for a minimum of 18 months, be 21 years of age, be a high school graduate or a GED diploma, complete 30 hours of advocate training and six hours of court observation. Upon successful completion of application, background and reference checks, personal interview, pre-service training, court observations, the CASA volunteer may be formally accepted as an advocate at the swearing-in ceremony.

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