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Our View: CASA, kids need help

Published: Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

While donating money and goods for children in need of help is necessary and helpful, what some kids really need is time and a person who cares.

One of the organizations that serves such a need through volunteers is CASA of McHenry County. CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, provides a voice for children who are drifting through abuses and neglect court trying to find a permanent home.

Dealing with court is difficult enough for adults, but imagine what it’s like for children. There is a lawyer to represent the state, an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services case worker with a huge caseload, a lawyer to represent a parent, and a judge presides over the case to make sure the law is followed.

But who can help make sure the voice of the child is heard? That’s where CASA volunteers come in. CASA’s goal is to make sure that a child finds a safe and permanent place to live.

That’s no small task, and it requires deep commitment from volunteers who must undergo a rigorous background check, training program and commit to spending at least 10 hours a month on the child’s case.

Kelly Pokharel, executive director of CASA, said CASA volunteers are only able to serve about 150 of the 250 kids caught in abuse and neglect cases each year based on the number of volunteers they have available.

Pokharel said national statistics show that kids with CASA volunteers spend less time in foster care, are more likely to graduate from school, less likely to become pregnant, and less likely to become incarcerated.

Volunteer training courses are starting in November. Anyone interested in helping CASA as a volunteer, donor or in other ways is encouraged to contact CASA of McHenry County at 815-363-5920 or visit www.casamchenrycounty.org.

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