FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Child abuse and neglect slipped through the cracks at higher rates this year. Allen County Court Appointed Special Advocates are recruiting more volunteers to address this concern.
Allen County CASA volunteers give children a voice in court. They put their time and energy into connecting with the children they represent so they can speak on behalf of their physical, educational, medical, emotional and social needs. They dedicate time to conversing with all of the people in the child’s life, ranging from social workers, attorneys and teachers to parents, family members and foster parents. The ultimate goal is to find the kids a safe, permanent home.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made their year more complicated though. With everyone staying home due to safety concerns or having no where to go because of all the shut downs, CASA is seeing children less. Schools are virtual. Summer programs closed. When they don’t see kids as much, it’s harder to catch child abuse and neglect.
“There wasn’t anybody looking out for them,” said Mell Depew, volunteer and recruitment coordinator for Allen County CASA. “Because they’re at home and they’re secluded, we don’t have those eyes on the child. We don’t have those mandated reporters that they see. If any of us suspect child abuse and neglect, we need to call and let’s make a difference in that child’s life by letting somebody know.”
Allen County CASA is finding that the cases in court have become more severe this year than years past. The biggest concerns they’re seeing in homes are truancy, substance abuse, and domestic abuse.
Currently CASA has about 150 volunteers, but they’re hoping for at least 60 more. Each new volunteer gets them a new child to advocate for in court.
Visit their website to sign up to volunteer.