Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Parkland has been awarded a $32,500 Core Model Grant from the National Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem (CASA/GAL) Association for Children.
This is just one of several national grants CASA of the Parkland receives that increases its ability to support vulnerable youth in the 24th Judicial Circuit Court.
According to JoAnna Watts, CASA of the Parkland executive director, the funds will be used to recruit, train and assign new volunteers to represent the best interests of children who have experienced abuse or neglect. Work done under the mentoring grant will target key populations such as American Indian/Alaska Native, rural, and opioid-impacted youth.
There are nearly 950 CASA/GAL programs nationwide, including 49 state offices, supporting volunteers who work on behalf of children in the child welfare system. Their advocacy enables judges to make the most well-informed decisions for each child.
Watts said the mentoring grant will enable CASA of the Parkland to focus on advocating for the needs of at-risk and underserved youth. Volunteers will also mentor youth, helping them increase their level of connectivity with community and family, improve educational outcomes, and reach stable placements.
“With over 500 children in foster care in the 24th circuit who have experienced abuse or neglect, largely due to the opioid crisis, the Core Model Grant from the National CASA/GAL Association for Children is crucial to increase the number of children CASA volunteers advocate for,” said Watts. “We are grateful to be awarded this grant to ensure more than 40 children from Madison, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, and Washington counties will be given a voice through their CASA volunteer.
"The federal grant funds distributed through National CASA/GAL are provided by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, US Department of Justice, as authorized under the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990. In 2019, National CASA/GAL was awarded nearly $7 million in federal grants."
For those unfamiliar with the program, here’s a little information about CASA of the Parkland:
While CASA of the Parkland’s office is located nearby the county courthouse in Farmington, it serves children in four counties in the region. Its mission is to recruit, train, and support community volunteers who assist the court in protecting the best interests of abused and neglected children in the 24th Judicial Circuit, including Madison, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, and Washington counties.
CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for children’s best interests. They stay with each case until it is closed, and the child is in a safe, permanent home. They serve children from birth through the age of 18.
Their volunteers work with legal and child welfare professionals, educators, and service providers to ensure that judges have all the information they need to make the most well-informed decisions for each child.
CASA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a member of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem (CASA/GAL) Association for Children. To find out more about CASA, visit www.casaoftheparkland.org or follow us on Facebook at CASA of the Parkland. Additional information can be found at www.nationalcasagal.org.
Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or firstname.lastname@example.org