CASA of the 31st Judicial District
(Allen, Neosho, Wilson and Woodson counties)
“CASA is a program that helps to ensure children do not become lost in the system and that they will always have an independent advocate looking after their interests.”
--Judge C. Fred Lorentz, retired chief judge of the 31st Judicial District
The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program began in 1977 in Seattle, Wash., and was started in Kansas in 1981 in Wichita. CASA programs are now in every state and in nearly every county in Kansas.
CASA of the 31st Judicial District is a non-profit agency governed by a board of directors, which includes citizens from all four counties in the district. It is funded mainly through grants and donations. CASA programs in Kansas must meet standards set by the Kansas Supreme Court and are annually reviewed to ensure compliance. In 2005, there were more than 100 Child in Need of Care (CINC) cases in the 31st Judicial District. This includes children from all four counties.
The primary goal of CASA is to assist in securing a permanent home for children who are in the child welfare system because of alleged or confirmed abuse and/or neglect. The presiding judge in a child’s case may appoint a CASA volunteer to advocate for the best interest of the child and assist in obtaining a permanent, safe placement for the child. The judge is the only person who can appoint a CASA volunteer and the volunteer’s sole job is to advocate for the child. CASA is not a mentoring or friendship program and children are not brought into a volunteer’s home. The responsibilities of the advocate are set out in Kansas Supreme Court Rule 110 and include attending court hearings pertaining to the child assigned to them, investigating and becoming familiar with circumstances affecting the welfare of the child and preparing written reports to the court regarding the case. Advocate volunteers receive 30 hours of training before being assigned to a case. In addition, ongoing training that assists the volunteer in his/her work is provided.
However, volunteers who do not wish to be an advocate are also needed. Other volunteer opportunities include assisting in the CASA office with mailings, working within one’s community to promote CASA, speaking to groups about the need for CASA in this area and helping with fundraising for the program. Fundraisers could include such events as providing a quilt to be auctioned off or asking a group of which one is a member to make a donation to CASA. Money raised in the 31st Judicial District stays in the district to assist children in this area. Volunteers are also needed to serve on the public relations and the fundraising committees. All volunteers will be provided with the appropriate training. Citizens from all four counties served by CASA of the 31st Judicial District are encouraged to volunteer.
For more information on CASA, to sign up as a volunteer, to request a speaker or to share a fund-raising idea or make a donation, call the CASA office at (620) 365-1448 or mail information to P. O. Box 433, Chanute, KS 66720.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
--Margaret Mead, anthropologist and writer