Federal grant impacts employment of court appointed special advocates

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind., (WTWO/WAWV)– Vigo County Commissioners signed a letter of support for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to apply for a federal grant.

The grant would allow CASA to employ more workers and minimize their wait list in Vigo Co.

Glenna Cheesman, CASA director, and other CASA volunteers help children who face abuse and neglect situations.

According to Cheesman, they’ve been working to eliminate the number of children on their wait list for the last three years.

“Any child on a wait list is one child too many. Previously the wait list consisted of almost a years wait list. We got that down to about nine months and now I can officially say today we have it under three months of a wait list,” she said.

CASA served 1,214 children in 2019. They are projected to serve nearly 1,400 in 2020.

Some children have been on the wait list for as long as a year and a half. However, Cheesman said new programs that the organization has implemented, in addition to applying for federal funding could eliminate that situation.

“We had some children that ended up been on the wait list so long that their cases ended up closing out without a voice ever being assigned to them.That is just not acceptable so we are working definitely to get that taken care of,” Cheesman said.

Elizabeth Yost, a CASA volunteer, said programs like CASA allow her to help the children that need it the most.

She said without funding that could change.

“A lot of those children would go back on the wait list and they would not be covered by staff anymore and that would mean a lot of kids don’t have voice in court and that could be very detrimental,” Yost said.

Yost assists nearly 50 children in court. She believes programs like CASA are the only chance some children have at being placed in a better situation.

“Adults make choices, parents make choices. These kids didn’t choose to be in this situation and so they need an adult that’s going to advocating for them in the court system to make sure they’re getting their best interests served,” she said.

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