Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers took part in a celebration at the State House on March 20, 2017, sponsored by the Indiana Supreme Court, Indiana Office of Court Services, GAL/CASA. More than 400 people from across the state clothed in blue t-shirts filled its north atrium, chanting “I am for the child” and “I am CASA strong.”
They came to thank lawmakers for their ongoing budgetary support and recent funding increases for GAL/CASA programs and to report on how they are using the additional funds. The rally also highlighted the impact of volunteer advocacy and the need for more volunteers to speak on behalf of Indiana’s most vulnerable children.
In 2015, when the legislature increased the appropriation for CASA programs by $2.1 million dollars, the State Office of GAL/CASA distributed $1.5 million dollars of the new funds to 63 counties for capacity building grants to assist more children. The State Office also purchased a statewide case management system for all CASA programs, called Optima, to assist in tracking and monitoring the children served.
CASA volunteers advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children whose families are involved with the child welfare system. There are 4,034 CASA volunteers in 79 Indiana counties advocating on behalf of 26,762 children. In 2016, Indiana’s volunteers contributed more than 348,000 hours of service, saving the state an estimated $31 million.
Speakers at the CASA Day event included Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David and Mary Willis, Chief Administrative Officer of the Supreme Court’s Office of Judicial Administration.
They thanked the volunteers for their advocacy on behalf of abused and neglected children. Justice David called CASA volunteers the “Navy Seals of child advocacy” and shared a CASA creed he wrote that highlights the critical role of advocates.
Willis read a proclamation from Governor Eric Holcomb, thanking CASA volunteers for their contributions and decreeing March 20, 2017 as CASA Day.
Two former foster youth also spoke: Crystal from Vanderburgh County read an original poem, and Demetrice, originally from Lake County, spoke of how his CASA made a difference in his life and how he now serves as a CASA volunteer himself in Marion County. Several volunteers also expressed why they advocate for foster children, sharing poignant stories of their successes on behalf of Indiana’s foster youth.
Indiana’s CASA programs are uniquely successful because they have strong support from all three branches of state government. Indiana has one of the largest networks of CASA programs in the nation, helping more children than almost any other state.
After the event, volunteers gathered in the House of Representatives where Representative Milo Smith honored them with a formal Resolution. Many Representatives stepped to the microphone to share words of support for the compassionate and dedicated work of CASA volunteers.
For additional information on becoming a CASA volunteer, or starting a CASA volunteer program, please contact Leslie Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org