BY LEANN DILBECK –
CASA of the Ouachitas is once again hosting their signature Kentucky Derby fundraising event in just a couple of weeks, and tickets are going fast, with only 130 total available. Last year, was the first year for the organization to host and it was a tremendous success, selling out, and raising $7,142 after expenses. This year’s event will be May 3 on the Spinelli’s Patio and organizers promise it to be all that it was last year and more.
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) of the Ouachitas is the voice of abused and neglected children in both Polk and Montgomery counties. CASA is a national organization.
As CASA Director Cynthia Martin explained, the Department of Children and Family Services is overburdened. Polk County only has eleven foster homes and Montgomery County only has one for children to be placed with that have been removed from their homes and their parents. In many cases, she explained, these children are sent to other foster homes or group homes all across the state.
CASA’s influence is highly favored by the courts because they solely represent the child. Specially trained, they are allowed to make recommendations on placement in future court proceedings.
Along with the importance of that, CASA volunteers are a life-line to these children. Suffering from abuse and neglect, it is the CASA volunteers along with DCFS who make regular check-ups with the children, celebrate birthdays and other milestones, providing constant reassurance that someone does care and love them. Unlike DCFS workers, CASA volunteers typically have only one case so they have more time to spend advocating for the children they are appointed to.
“Federal budget cuts are threatening our ability to ensure that abused and neglected children have a caring volunteer standing by their side, speaking up for their best interests and giving them hope for the future. Our approach works. When we can reach a child in need, his or her life changes, for the better. But for every foster child with a CASA volunteer, two others go it alone.”
CASA is a 501c3, meaning that all donations made to the organization are tax-deductible. All 25 CASA volunteers are true volunteers and receive no compensation for their time. Cynthia said that their entire program is funded through state and federal grants.
The cost to sponsor a child is approximately $1,200 per child and currently, CASA has 44 children in their care, but has assisted up to 65 at times. They served 88 children in 2012 and 93 in 2013.
They have a governing board: Ashley Vacca, Paula Brotherton, Amye Hebert, Kaylon Scroggins, Becky Johnson, Pete Johnson, Terri Harrison, and Peggy Severson.
Ashley explained that donations to CASA go beyond a donation, “They are an investment. They are an investment into the life of a child. A child that may otherwise ‘fall through the cracks’ of the system.”
Ashley, the mastermind of the event is excited about this year’s derby, “It will be the most exciting two minutes in sports, she joked, as guests can watch the legendary racing event via TV from the patio. Tickets are $25 each and are being sold at Union Bank, Arvest, Nat & Co., and the CASA office.
Cynthia said there are many ways to show your support to the children of CASA and hopes that anyone interested will contact her office to learn more at 479-243-9277 or visit the National site at mailto:http://www.casaforchildren.org/site/c.mtJSJ7MPIsE/b.5301295/k.BE9A/Home.htm