There is no greater gift to a child than to give your time to lend a helping hand, and there are 177 children in the metro-east in need of a volunteer to represent them in court.
The children are abused or neglected and are unable to represent themselves in court. It only takes about 10 hours per month to help them, said Mechiko White, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA.
“We encourage people to step up to the plate and help these children,” White said. “We want people to reserve their slot for training in January 2018.”
CASA of Southern Illinois is a Belleville-based non-profit organization that serves children in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties. Its mission is to recruit, train and support court-appointed advocates “to work for the best interest of abused and neglected children,” White said.
Volunteers are the voice for the children and the eyes for the court. They get to know all aspects of the children’s lives, so they can advise the court on decisions impacting the child’s future. The organization is looking for 50 more volunteers to help serve the 177 children in need.
In 2016, the organization served more than 500 children in the three counties, according to the executive director.
Children with CASA volunteers spend 75 fewer months in foster care, experience fewer out-of-home placements and perform better in school, White said.
Nationwide, a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds. No one is immune, White said.
Retired St. Clair County Judge Milton Wharton and co-founder of CASA said advocates are essential in court.
“It’s essential that abused and neglected children have both an advocate that can engage the child welfare system of limited resources so that the could have the best opportunity to heal the incredible harm to their development that could come from being abused and neglected,” Wharton said.
Children in situations of abuse and neglect that go unaddressed are more likely to develop into abusive and neglectful parents themselves, Wharton said.