GAL/CASA & American Legion Partner to Help Children
June 30, 2009 by Leslie Dunn
The American Legion, which has its national headquarters in Indianapolis, recently vowed to strengthen and expand its support of GAL/CASA programs across the country. Michael Piraino, the CEO of the National CASA Association, Leslie Dunn, the State Director of GAL/CASA, Indiana Supreme Court, Division of State Court Administration, and Frank West, a CASA volunteer and Legionnaire from Grant County, Indiana, on May 4 presented information on CASA to the American Legion’s National Children and Youth Commission. Two days later the Commission passed a resolution encouraging American Legion posts all over the country to assist their local CASA programs in recruiting quality volunteers, including qualified Legionnaires, to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. The resolution also urges all Legion posts to help raise public awareness concerning the vital role that CASA volunteers play in providing safe, permanent and nurturing homes for abused and neglected children.
The American Legion has nearly 4 million members across the country. Service to children and youth is one of the four pillars of the American Legion. The majority of Legion members are very involved in their communities and will assist in bringing greater awareness to the need for more children advocate volunteers. Frank West said: “the partnership is an ideal fit, because both organizations involve ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things.”
Chief Justice Randall Shepard and State Court Administration Executive Director Lilia Judson welcomed Piraino to Indiana. They met with him and local GAL/CASA program directors to discuss the Indiana partnership. The Chief Justice expressed his appreciation for the work of the Legion, “The CASA program allows us to give children a voice in court. As we continually evaluate how we can better serve children in our state who are in the court system, we must also take time to praise the hard work of volunteers who are making a difference.” Chief Justice Shepard and Executive Director Judson are pleased to have the American Legion’s support and are confident that this new partnership will add to the success of the program.
Leslie Dunn, the State Director of GAL/CASA, who helped organize the presentation to the American Legion, said: “We are very hopeful that this collaboration will help Indiana children, and children all over the country, by raising awareness for the need to recruit volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children.” Dunn noted that American Legion members can help local programs in a variety of ways, including serving as a board member for a CASA program, sharing their personal expertise, and building community support and awareness. “We hope that many American Legion members will also choose to become directly involved by serving as a CASA volunteer for a child,” said Dunn.
In previous years, the Indiana GAL/CASA network has partnered with the Indiana Retired Teachers Association to recruit more volunteers. The number of GAL/CASA volunteers in Indiana increased by 50% in 2008 as a result of this partnership and through the use of additional funds allocated for GAL/CASA programs by the Indiana General Assembly.
GAL/CASA Provides Progress Report to State LegislatorsGAL/CASA program directors from across the State of Indiana met with legislators in the Statehouse rotunda to discuss progress made in their counties and in expanding their programs statewide. Legislators were greeted by life-size cardboard cut-outs of the National CASA Association’s “Forgotten Children,” holding signs saying: “My CASA is always there for me,” “Foster Children should be seen and heard,” and “We all have the Highest Potential.” Legislators learned that GAL/CASA program workers in Indiana recruited and trained a record 911 new volunteers in 2008, representing a 50% increase from 2007. Indiana now has almost 2,500 GAL/CASA program volunteer advocates, who have provided a voice for over 14,000 children in abuse and neglect cases. Unfortunately, 4,000 Indiana children remain on an advocate waiting list, mainly due to increased filings in some larger, urban areas.The State Office of GAL/CASA, and the Legislative Committee of the Indiana Supreme Court’s Advisory Commission on GAL/CASA, organized the April 7 gathering, which coincided with National Child Abuse Prevention month. The response was very good with an estimated 50-60 representatives and senators attending the event. “Legislators seemed genuinely interested in the programs in their communities and wanted to meet with their local program directors,” said Leslie Dunn, State Director of GAL/CASA. “We thanked the legislators for their support and advised them of our efforts to increase the number of volunteers available to advocate on behalf of Indiana’s most vulnerable children.” A copy of the GAL/CASA progress report is available at: