Jackson County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
Jackson County CASA has compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions from community members. You will find useful information here.
What is our organization’s mission?
Our mission is to be a child’s voice in court. We recruit, train and support lay volunteers who act as advocates on behalf of the best interest of abused and neglected children.
Who benefits from the work of CASA?
The direct beneficiaries are the over 1,000 children served each year under the jurisdiction of the Jackson County Family Court who are protected from further abuse and neglect. The Court benefits from our work as we assist Judges in making difficult decisions, including determining the child’s immediate living situation, planned permanent placement and services needed. The entire community benefits in the long term as children who are given a better life will grow into happier, healthier and more productive adults who provide positive care and support for their children, rather than continue the cycle of abuse.
What makes us different from other organizations?
There is no other organization in Jackson County providing the services that we do, training and supporting volunteers to provide advocacy for the best interests of the child. OGAL (Office of the Guardian Ad Litem) also represents the best interest of children in the Court system, but they must do so without a dedicated core of trained and caring volunteers. OGAL cannot represent all abused and neglected children because:
- they have limited resources, only 8 attorneys to represent more than 2,500 children in the system at any one time
- conflicts of interest.
CASA works in partnership with OGAL, the Children’s Division, the Court and others to protect children. We have a collaborative relationship with Johnson/Wyandotte County CASA, working together for public awareness, including volunteer recruitment.
What do people say about our work?
“CASA is the eyes and ears of the Court,” states one Family Court Commissioner. “CASA volunteers go investigate the things I wish that I could look at.” Our volunteers say things like “It’s about helping a child replace a life of hurt with one of hope,” “Children need us to be their Voice in Court,” and “I can help a child find a safe, permanent home.”
How would you document the need for our work?
Every day four children in the U.S. die from child abuse and neglect. There are over 2,500 abused and neglected children under the jurisdiction of the Jackson County Family Court. CASA’s goal is to accept and serve 50% of the new petitions filed in court each year, working closely with OGAL to provide advocacy and representation for each child’s best interest.
Shouldn’t every abused or neglected child be permanently removed from the abusive caregiver?
CASA volunteers work in partnership with the Children’s Division, therapists, teachers and other trained professionals to determine the best outcome for each child. Removal from a family of origin is always a traumatic event that can create life long problems for a child. In some cases, a family can be provided resources, support and training that will help a troubled family system find healthy ways to interact and provide care. There are many possible positive outcomes for a child: adoption, reunification, independent living or guardianship with relatives are the most viable answers to the child’s need for a safe, permanent home.
How old are we?
Jackson County CASA was established in 1983.
Who has reviewed and endorsed our work?
National CASA Association, Jackson County Family Court,United Way and COMBAT.
How did we further the cause in 2015?
CASA served 1,149 children in 2015. This is the most in agency history.
If we had an extra $250,000, how would the money be used?
There is a tremendous need for CASA services. We currently serve less than half of the children in the Jackson County Family Court System. The money would enable us to reach our goal of serving at least 50% of all children in the Court system. (The other 50% will continue to be served by the Office of the Guardian Ad Litem. Because of possible Conflict of Interest issues, neither office could ever serve all of the children in the system. Since CASA uses an army of focused volunteers, it is generally acknowledged that we should take the children whose cases are more complex or need additional care.)
Specifically, an additional $250,000 would be used to:
- Expand our services to 250 more children
- Strengthen volunteer training to train 250 more volunteers
- Offer education to other community resources
- Improve program visibility through public relations and marketing
How qualified are our staff to get the job done?
CASA staff are well qualified as well as extremely devoted to CASA’s mission. Executive Director, Martha Gershun has experience in the corporate and non-profit world. All of our Staff Attorneys have devoted their career to serving the Public Interest, especially in Child Welfare. All Case Supervisors have between 2-9 years service with CASA and/or in the Child Welfare System.
Most CASA Case Supervisors have social work backgrounds, including experience with Missouri Children’s Division, Kaw Valley Center, Synergy House and other agencies devoted to serving at-risk children and families.
What are our main accomplishments of the last several years?
In 1997, Jackson County CASA was required to reorganize our agency in order to meet Court requirement that GALs (Guardian Ad Litems) be a licensed attorney. Prior to that time, volunteers were appointed as GAL and Jackson County CASA did not have attorneys on staff. When we reopened in late 1998, CASA had about 30 volunteers who returned to service. Since that time, we have re-built our volunteer core to over 260 individuals. We continue to grow throughout the years.
What are the benefits to supporting CASA?
- The cost of providing CASA benefits to a child are about $1,000 each year. This small investment pays major dividends in providing a better quality of life, healthier environment, and opportunity to influence a positive future.
- By helping to save a child from a life of abuse and neglect, we provide an alternative to the cycle of victims becoming abusers and passing the heredity of violence.
- Abused and neglected children have a friend and an advocate who is committed to and solely focused on that child’s welfare. CASA kids don’t “drop through the cracks.”
- Giving back to the community
- Charitable deduction
How can I help CASA?
There are many ways to help CASA and our mission. We are always seeking individuals to be CASA volunteers. We also need volunteers to help with our special events and fundraising. We also need “one-time” volunteers to help with lawn maintenance, landscaping, painting and house maintenance.
We can always use financial support, be it a one-time gift, recurring support or planned giving.
We are also interested in in-kind gifts.
How much do CASA services cost per child?
Where do we plan to go for funding in the future?
The community has been very generous in supporting CASA’s annual Light of Hope Breakfast and our family-friendly fundraiser, Carnival for CASA. Additionally, CASA has great opportunity in enhancing individual philanthropy.
What is CASA’s Endowment Fund?
CASA does not yet have an endowment fund, but this is a priority for the board in the coming few years.
Where is CASA located?
2544 Holmes Street, Kansas City, MO 64108