WILMINGTON — Judge Chad Carey introduced Kim Vandervort, Director of the CASA program in Clinton County who spoke to the Wilmington Rotary Club which meets at noon on Mondays at Damon’s Restaurant.
Vandervort stated that CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocate – is a program focused on giving the child, involved in the court situation, a voice.
As Director, Vandervort is in charge of hiring, training and managing the volunteers in the program. There are currently 16 CASA volunteers in Clinton County, with an ongoing push to recruit more.
Forty children, representing 21 families, are in being served at this time in the county. The 16 volunteers have attended 324 hearings representing the children, donating 2,595 hours of their time and driving over 10,000 miles to make visits in support of the program.
Thirty-one children have been permanently placed, with 21 being reunified with their parents.
Vandervort said that children become eligible for a CASA volunteer as the result of neglect or abuse in their current living situation, and that situation being escalated to a court action.
Volunteers stay with the child until there is a safe and permanent home for the child. This could take months, or longer, and the objective is to represent the best interests of the child, and his or her choices.
A volunteer will investigate the circumstances behind the child’s placement, reviewing relevant records, visiting the child in many of his or her daily situations and then make recommendations to the court.
In a situation where immediate, and perhaps extended, family may advocate for what they believe is best; and when Children’s Services may advocate for what is best, based on its knowledge and experience. The child’s experience and wishes are the focus of the CASA Volunteer.
Also, Vandervort stated that by volunteering, the CASA representative saves the county millions of dollars. The alternative is to court-appoint a Guardian Ad Litem, funded by the local jurisdiction.
The local CASA program operates on volunteer hours, grants and private donations. Donations can be directed to the Clinton County Foundation — CASA fund.
To volunteer, contact Vandervort. Classes run each March and September.