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Our Opinion: CASA continues to grow in advocacy for children

Our Opinion: CASA continues to grow in advocacy for children

June 6th, 2013 in News

Although fanfare often accompanies the launch of an endeavor, the test of time is a measure of its worth.

We are encouraged, therefore, that a program to advocate for children not only continues, but continues to grow.

Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) began locally in 2010 with a boost from the Kiwanis Club and the blessing of the Cole County Circuit Court.

The advocates are volunteers who are trained to help abused or neglected children navigate the complex, and often confusing, judicial system.

Ten volunteers graduated Monday from CASA's 10-week training program, which will bring the number of advocates to 32. This marks another steady increase since the program began with 11 volunteers trained and appointed as advocates.

James Kellerman, CASA executive director, noted the previous group of 22 advocates assisted 58 abused or neglected children. He expects the expanded group will help 70-80 children.

A CASA volunteer works with the juvenile court, other juvenile agencies and guardian ad litem to decide what is best for a child who has been placed in the court system through no fault of his or her own.

To be eligible, a volunteer must be age 18 or older and pass a criminal background check.

Carrie Fleig, one of the new advocates, said: "It's important to give children in these cases a voice and have a third party to try to communicate their wants, needs and desires."

She added: "I had an inner desire to help."

Such an inner desire is valuable for a CASA volunteer, because their role requires training, commitment and compassion.

The work they do - for children, the judicial system and community - is immeasurable, and we commend them for their service.