Help for Abused Kids
Eight people are the final pieces required to complete a puzzle called CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates.
"CASA programs provide screened, trained volunteers who speak for abused and neglected children in juvenile court," said Beth Dessem, director of Missouri's CASA chapters.
Board member Kristen Havig added, "A CASA worker is just a private citizen. It can be an attorney, it can be a school teacher, it can be a stay-at-home mom, it can be anybody with the commitment to take on the case."
After advertising in newspapers and church bulletins, CASA found its first eight volunteers. They play a key role in children's lives.
"The children have a visiting resource," Havig explained. "Often kids in this system don't have anyone to visit with or that's on their side that they can count on for phone calls and contact who's really going to listen to them, hear what they're saying, hear what their needs are and communicate those as far as their best interest goes to the court."
CASA came to Missouri in 1980, and Columbia received a chapter in 2004. A local judge appointed its first volunteers.
They hope to provide a safe and happy home for all children a judge assigns to them after authorities legally remove them from their homes. Volunteers follow their cases until children are placed in safe and permanent homes. That process can take up to a year.