CASA of the River Region Advocates for Abused & Neglected Children
Writer: Stephanie VonTrapp
Photographer: Stephanie VonTrapp
CASA of the River Region is one of the most outstanding groups of individuals who are saving and changing children’s lives daily in Louisville. Non-profits often have trouble with advertising because the bulk of their resources, financial and otherwise, must be poured into helping those they aim to serve rather than promoting their organizations.
I did not know who or what a CASA was or that such an esteemed volunteer opportunity was available to me but once I heard, I was in fully committed. Being a CASA is one of the most rewarding roles of my life and I am grateful I didn’t wait until retirement to get involved. You too may just be the next CASA and play your own role in changing a child’s life for the better. A CASA is a Court Appointed Special Advocate who volunteers within the family court system to advocate for the rights of abused and neglected children. Their motto is “I am for the child.”
The CASA movement began in 1977 when Seattle Superior Court Judge David Soukup was concerned about making life-changing decisions regarding juveniles with insufficient information. He conceived the idea of citizen volunteers advocating for abused and neglected children in the courtroom. The first program spawned a network of nearly 1,000 CASA and guardian ad litem programs. CASA Programs focus on the recruitment, screening, education, training and support of more than 75,000 volunteers in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Louisville is served by CASA of the River Region and is one of the most successful chapters in the country.
Unfortunately, Kentucky is also one of the states with the greatest need. The opiate epidemic and other substance abuse have created an environment where an increasing number of parents are unable to care for their children appropriately and the family court system is in constant need of volunteers. Over eighty percent of child abuse and neglect cases involve substance abuse. In Jefferson County, social workers already carry a full caseload, and CASAs serve as an extra pair of eyes and ears on a case to help the judges stay informed on the status of their appointed children. If a case changes hands between social workers, the CASA stays assigned to the child. A CASA is expected to see a case through from beginning to end. We do not close a case or remove ourselves from a case until there is resolution and permanent placement for the child.
A CASA collects information for the judge assigned to the case but also serves as a stable person in that child’s life. CASAs come from varying backgrounds, including public service, education or ministry. CASAs may be parents, grandparents or those without children of their own. You never know who may be serving as a CASA, giving a child a voice, and changing lives. The one thing all CASAs have in common is that they care, they act in a child’s best interests, they enjoy serving and they’re committed.
Do you think you may be interested? You can learn more about becoming a CASA by attending one of the CASA 101 sessions. Dates and registration for these can be found online or by calling the CASA office. You may not choose to become a CASA but may choose to help CASA by volunteering at some of their community events. CASA gets funding through grants, donations and the profits collected from various community events. The next event is the Bourbon by the Bridge fundraiser on Saturday, June 9 under the Big Four Bridge.
University of Louisville Jazz Ensemble will perform as guests enjoy Ladyfingers Catering and a wide variety of distilleries and spirits. Cocktails at sunset on the river make for a beautiful way to kick off summer. Other events include the private St. James Art Fair Preview Party, Superhero Run 5k and Christmas in the Courtyard. This year’s St. James Art Fair Preview event will be on Thursday, October 4 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Muhammad Ali Center. Ticket holders have the exclusive benefit of accessing the museum for one hour beginning at 5 p.m. Save the date for this year’s Superhero Run on Saturday, October 20 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the City of Pewee Valley. Last year our family attended the Superhero Run 5k and we had a blast. Adults and children alike dressed as Superheroes and there were prizes, games, a short race for the kids (where they each got a superhero cape), a CASA kid medal and free books to take home.
Christmas in the Courtyard is a winter event held at Wakefield-Scearce Galleries with private access to seasonal shops, hors d’oeuvres, a full bar and live holiday music. After you have recovered from your Derby Celebrations, I encourage you to get connected today and see what CASA of the River Region has to offer. There is no shortage of need and certainly any help you could offer would be appreciated. You may just be the next superhero.