New program benefits children and leads the way in Indiana
In 2017, The Community Foundation awarded Delaware County CASA Program $19,480 through the Quarterly Competitive Grants Program for the development of a new volunteer advocate program. CASA created and implemented a Child Home and School Visitor (CHSV) program. More specifically, CASA staff created all necessary program components (roles and responsibilities, service protocol, training program), developed, piloted, and refined a service tool (the “checklist”), and integrated the CHSV training information into the broader CASA training.
Delaware County's need for CASA has grown tremendously due to the current drug and opioid epidemic. There has been an almost 200 percent increase in the number of abused and neglected children in the Delaware County Court System since 2012. CHSVs check in on children in the court system at while they are at school and at home. They are able to gather information from the child, teachers and caregivers they meet, and share their observations with a CASA Court Liaison who represents the child in the courtroom. A traditional court-appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteer provides a more in-depth look at the child’s situation and speaks for them in the courtroom.
During the period of the grant, CASA hired a CHSV supervisor to develop the program and was able to recruit, train, and certify a total of 11 new CHSV volunteers. These volunteers, along with the supervisor, were able to serve 124 children who would have otherwise remained on the wait list for a CASA.
"Considering all the people involved in this child’s life, we can still find things that are missing,” said the CHSV supervisor. “We’re one more person, but we’re also more child-centered. When we talk to the kids, I think they look at us sometimes not so legally. When we’re there, they’re the focus."
Plans for expanding the program in Delaware County are already in the works. In fact, the program’s success was noticed by CASA leadership at the state level. Consequently, state level CASA leadership and the Supreme Court helped Delaware County CASA obtain a role in a new pilot program by the State that utilizes the CHSV Program as one component of a triage system built to serve more children more efficiently and meet the child and court's needs more effectively. The Delaware County CASA Program was awarded $45,000 to continue this CHSV work. The success of CASA's initial efforts, funded by The Community Foundation, enabled them to launch the program, meet identified goals, expand program capacity, and attract State funding to support the program's sustainability.
Most importantly, CASA is serving more children in Delaware County which, ultimately, will lead to better outcomes for some of the most vulnerable children in our community. We are pleased to support programs, like this one, that improve the quality of life in Delaware County.