INDIANAPOLIS - More Hoosier children are ending up on the wait list for court appointed representatives. It's been a growing issue for many central Indiana counties and some areas have already surpassed all of last year's cases.
Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, is a national association that supports and promotes court-appointed adults to abused or neglected children who work with judges and courts, with the child's best interest in mind to place them in permanent and safe homes.
Reporting of child abuse has gone up in the past couple years, according to the Indiana Youth Institute president and CEO Tami Silverman, who said the statewide abuse hotline received one call every three minutes, on average.
According to numbers provided by the State Office of GAL/CASA, the state had 14,227 new juvenile cases in 2014. In 2016, that number had grown to 20,063.
“The children coming into the system continue to grow and there are various systems involved," said James Wide, the communications director for the Indiana Department of Child Services. "There are the courts, there are CASA, court appointed special advocates, there are different service providers involved for different needs for the youth. So this increase continues to stretch all those services.”
After the first quarter of 2017, there are some counties with a much longer waiting list than others. The following numbers, which were also provided by the state CASA office, are the number of children waiting for a CASA volunteer in each county:
- Madison County - 610 children
- Delaware County - 380 children
- Morgan County - 134 children
- Henry County - 128 children
- Johnson County - 124 children
- Monroe County - 119 children
Leaders behind CASA and DCS said there is also a direct connection to an increase in cases and the state's battle with drug addiction.
“That isn’t just a trend in Indianapolis that is statewide and really nationwide," said Wide. "There are various drugs, powerful drugs, whether it’s opioids, heroin, cocaine, meth and when adults are using these drugs they tend to be in a neglectful situation where they neglect their children and other responsibilities.”
A spokesperson with the state office of GAL/CASA said each county has different rules or qualifications for who can be a volunteer. Click here for more information or call 1-800-542-0813.
“They’re trained in child welfare and they help navigate the system with the child, with DCS ,and with the courts," said Wide. "When a child, just like anyone else, when someone is in the court system, all the help they can get navigate would be beneficial and that’s what the CASA does.”