TROY — She and her team work with the most innocent victims of neglect, domestic violence, medical issues and abuse across Miami County. Jennifer Sanders of Court Appointed Special Advocates/Guardian Ad Litem (CASA/GAL) spoke to Troy Rotarians during their weekly meeting on Oct. 25 to provide an overview of the services and programs available to children who need a volunteer advocate during difficult times.
Sanders and two program coordinators make up the paid staff at CASA/GAL. Sanders has been in her current role more than nine years and coordinates volunteer advocates to work with juveniles who have been abused and neglected while their cases are in the court system. The concept of CASA began in 1977 when Judge David Soukup of Seattle, Washington, first recruited community volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in court. Today, there are more than 950 CASA programs in all 50 states with nearly 75,000 volunteer advocates who work on the behalf of close to 240,000 children. The State of Ohio initiated a CASA program in 1980 and now has 37 programs that serve 41 counties. Locally, CASA/GAL of Miami County has 40 fully screened volunteers on their roster, ready to step in and assist where needed. Each volunteer spends 30 hours being trained on the law, the responsibilities of an advocate, and the duties of the job.
The volunteers independently investigate all claims. When the claims are validated, the volunteers track each case from beginning to end and make referrals to social service agencies, health agencies, and other support services as needed. They help place children into foster care but then continually interact with those children as they experience their new surroundings and environments. In just this year alone, CASA/GAL of Miami County has advocated for 145 children. CASA/GAL is funded by charitable contributions, grants, a contract with Miami County Juvenile Court, and the United Way of Troy. To learn more, visit www.miamicountycasa.org or send questions to [email protected]
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