HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind. - Hundreds of children across central Indiana need your help as multiple counties are reporting a shortage of CASA volunteers who step in and speak up for kids taken away from their parents in neglect or abuse cases.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. In Madison County, there are more than 600 children waiting for a CASA volunteer. Hancock County reported there were 90 kids on a wait list.
The surge of kids in need can be blamed on the state's drug epidemic.
"90% of the cases probably, it is due to the family’s involvement in drugs; specifically heroin or meth," said Candice Hammond, Volunteer Co-Coordinator for East Central Indiana CASA. "So many of these are parents that love their children like all parents do, but they can’t find the demons of the disease."
According to the Indiana State Office of GAL/CASA, there were 6,096 children statewide waiting to be assigned to a CASA volunteer at the end of 2016.
In Marion County, there is currently no wait list, but workers are overwhelmed with the caseload. That county is seeking at least 1,000 more volunteers to ease the burden.
"Our staff has extremely high caseloads," said Adrienne Reed, Director of Volunteer Program at Marion County CASA. "Three years ago we around maybe serving 5,000 kids in a year. Last year we served 8,833."
Becoming a CASA volunteer takes time and commitment and there are specific requirements you must meet.
Some counties have an age requirement of 18 or 21. You must also pass a background check and go through training, which can last several weeks. Most importantly, you must be willing to commit to a year on average per case.
You can contact your county's CASA program to learn how to apply.