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If you ask any one of the abused or neglected kids in the Court Appointed Special Advocate program what they wish for Christmas, he or she wouldn’t skip a beat. Their wish is to be home for Christmas. No matter how badly a child is treated, he or she wants to go home to their family.
If you ask a CASA child advocate what he or she wishes for their CASA child or children for Christmas he or she would respond they want the children to have a safe, loving, permanent home.
Getting to a safe, loving, permanent home requires more than a Christmas wish. It requires dollars.
CASA of the Heartland’s most critical need is dollars to help make our community’s abused and neglected children’s Christmas wish come true — either by returning safely to their birth families or by finding a loving adoptive home. Our volunteers stay with a child until this wish is granted.
As executive director of CASA of the Heartland, my Christmas wish is our 22 active volunteers can continue to serve the 71 children currently on our roles. In addition, my Christmas wish is CASA can serve the 50 abused and neglected children on CASA’s waiting list.
CASA’s children are our children — yours and mine — and they need the help of everyone reading this. Here’s why our community’s child victims need your tax-deductible donation.
CASA receives no state or federal funding — none of your tax dollars go into this program. Kentucky is one of only seven states that provide no state funding for its CASA programs.
CASA in Kentucky relies on individual donations and grant money to fund services. The current economic climate creates more competition for grant dollars among charitable organizations like CASA and increases the need for individual donations.
National CASA and our local standards of practice require a full-time volunteer coordinator for every 45 children we serve. On average, one CASA of the Heartland volunteer serves three children.
CASA of the Heartland currently employs one full-time volunteer coordinator, who serves 45 children and one part-time volunteer coordinator who serves 23 children, which means at 71 children CASA of the Heartland currently is over capacity by three.
CASA of the Heartland is at risk of losing a part-time volunteer coordinator and needs funds to retain that position. We also need to add another full-time position to serve the 50 child victims waiting for a child advocate. That’s a critical need for $45,000. That’s right. There are 121 children in our program now, with 50 not served because of funding. We would like to be able to provide an advocate for all 300 children currently in Hardin County Family Court.
To give you an example of what your CASA contribution can mean in a child’s life, as well as the benefits to our community, consider these facts. According to the American Correctional Association the average cost of incarcerating one youth is about $80,000 per year. Multiply that dollar amount by those CASA children who, without a CASA’s mentorship, without one stable person in their lives, are at-risk of becoming juvenile offenders.
For $30,000 of private money, CASA can provide intervention for dozens of children each year. Those dozens of juveniles incarcerated at $80,000 each costs taxpayers millions a year.
Another example of the cost to taxpayers is regular foster care in Kentucky averages $21 a day or $7,665 a year. If a child is medically fragile the taxpayers’ bill is an average of $41 a day or $14,965 a year. According to National CASA, a child with a CASA volunteer spends eight months less in foster care than a child without a CASA volunteer.
Once again, an investment in CASA means a savings of millions of dollars to taxpayers and a brighter future for a child.
There is no real measure for the trauma a child suffers from abuse, neglect and removal from his or her home and family. No dollar amount can be assigned to the care and attention that CASA’s child advocates bring to a child’s life as they work to help a child reach a permanent, loving home.
CASA alone is not the answer to our child welfare issues in Kentucky, however CASA can be a part of the solution. Research shows that a child with a CASA volunteer is:
You can make an abused or neglected child’s Christmas wish come true. Help children right here in Hardin County find a safe, loving, permanent home by making an end-of-year, tax-deductible donation to CASA of the Heartland, P.O. Box 6065, Elizabethtown, KY 42702 or visit our website, www.casaheartland.com and click on Donate.
Every dollar helps.
Sylvia Griendling is executive director of CASA of the Heartland.