Elkhart child advocacy group reaches milestone of zero children on waitlist

NOW: Elkhart child advocacy group reaches milestone of zero children on waitlist

ELKHART, Ind. -- The Court Appointed Special Advocates program in Elkhart has set a new record.

The program usually has an extensive wait list but as of May 20, that list has finally reached zero.

The program has helped children suffering from abuse and neglect in the legal system since 1993 and this is the first time in 26 years they’re all caught up.

“I can’t come in and say I need another case because there are no new cases,” Mary Somerville said, a volunteer at CASA.

Somerville is one of many volunteers who’ve helped Elkhart children navigate through the court system.

“Indiana started a pilot program and Elkhart County was one of eight counties that was chosen to do the triage program,” Helen Kelvin explained, the director at CASA.

Less than a year ago, the list of unserved kids in Elkhart County was over 150 but now thanks to the new triage system and their volunteers, that list is no more.

“So the triage program is a program that assesses the children in the category of the severity of being served,” Kelvin said.

Before the pilot program, each child received the same amount of face-time with volunteers and staff but with this new system, children with lower risk were seen less than kids at a higher risk.

“The month that they’re not being seen there’s still some sort of contact,” Kelvin said. “Whether it’s a phone call, email, telephone call.”

It’s not only the new system that helped bring the list of unserved kids to zero, Kelvin said it’s volunteers like Somerville who give the children a voice.

“I visit them at school, I visit with their teachers, I’ve taken children to get their tonsils taken out,” Somerville said.

The work’s not done yet thought. The team at CASA wants to keep that number at zero but they said they need the community’s to keep it that way.

“We especially need men to volunteer as well as Spanish speaking volunteers,” Somerville said. “It’s just a great experience to know that you’re helping somebody else. And maybe we can turn a child’s life around.”

No legal experience is required to volunteer. CASA is hosting an advocate training day July 5 for anyone who wishes to help out.

“As long as you have that passion and that drive to advocate for these children that have been abused and neglected, that’s all we ask,” Kelvin said.

For more information on CASA, you can visit their website. 

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