BARRON COUNTY, Wis. (WEAU) -- The Wisconsin CASA Association is bringing its program to Barron County that provides kids in foster care with a mentor that helps guide them through the system.
CASA stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocates” and matches kids who have been abused or neglected with a volunteer mentor called a “CASA”. The CASAs meet with a child for one hour per week and also accompany them to court hearings.
“Kids who have been removed from their families of origin because of abuse or neglect often find that they don’t have a voice in the process and how it goes,” says Susan Schwartz, the State Director for CASA. “Our program provides an advocate for the kids who are under a CHIPS (Child in Need of Protection or Services) order so that they have a voice and those advocates literally can testify for the kids in court; they sit next to them in court so they have someone familiar.”
Schwartz says the CASA can help judges make decisions that are in the best interest of the child. The CASAs can also help provide information to social workers.
“Kids who have a CASA look forward to their CASA visits every week because it’s not a social worker, it’s not a therapist, it is an adult who wants to be there with them,” Schwartz says. “It’s that one consistent adult in its life. If you can imagine what its like when these children are removed from their families, it’s very traumatic and a CASA provides some consistency in their lives to stabilize them and help them build resiliency.”
Earlier this summer, the Barron County Board of Supervisors approved the $50,000 in funding needed to bring the program to the area. Now it’s up to the Wisconsin CASA association to raise the rest of the money needed to hire full-time staff and find an office space.
150 kids in Barron County are eligible for a CASA. Schwartz says because of the drug epidemic in the area, there are an unusual amount of kids eligible for a CASA in Barron County.
“The opioid and meth epidemics usually cause the offenders to neglect or pay less attention to their children,” says Schwartz. “It’s just the nature of addiction.”
To show interest in becoming a CASA in Barron County or to donate, click here.
The goal is to have CASA in place in Barron County by the end of 2019.