CASA volunteers gather to celebrate achievements, look toward future

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INDIANAPOLIS – Giving abused kids a voice is the job of Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA.

They help decide what’s best for those kids when their parents can’t. They’re doing the best they can, but the group said it needs more members to help more kids.

Volunteers made their case during CASA Day at the Statehouse, where hundreds of Court Appointed Special Advocates were standing up for kids.

“It has been very rewarding,” said volunteer Alicia Turner. “It is difficult that we have to do it, but I enjoy doing it.”

Turner said it didn’t take long before she was hooked. She has been a volunteer for five years strong after hearing the story of one 3-year-old girl.

“It just really touched me,” said Turner. “After I heard that story, she did unfortunately pass away to abuse. I called and signed up the next day and I have been doing it ever since.”

CASA volunteers sit down and establish a relationship with each child they are assigned to. When it comes time to go to court, the CASAs stand with the child and make a decision on their behalf.

“So much better,” said Caleb McKinse, a recipient of CASA care. “I am living with my dad now and I was not before.”

McKinse had no idea what CASA was until his volunteer came into his life six years ago.

“It has helped me become more mature and not as angry,” he said.

Right now, there are roughly 3,500 CASA volunteers across the state, helping more than 18,600 abused and neglected children.

Organizers said the number is great, but the need is even greater.

“More volunteers means more children have voices and that is a good thing in our child welfare system,” said Child Advocates Executive Director Cynthia Booth.

Volunteer Phil Heinz said he spends roughly eight hours a month with his CASA kid. He said the effects last a lot longer.

“I will do this for the rest of my life,” Heinz told Fox 59. “They need us, and I want to be there. It does not take a lot of time, it just takes a little caring.”

Turner thought of it like this: if she doesn’t help give children a voice, who will?

“To be able to be that voice for the child to make sure their needs are being met and the things that need to be relayed to the judge are heard,” she said.

The need is great all over the state but it is greatest in Marion County, where 25 percent of the abuse in the entire state happens. Organizers are hoping for just 100 more volunteers.

To learn more about CASA and get involved, check out the organization’s website.

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