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Youth advocate program in need of volunteers

Court Appointed Special Advocates of St. Joseph County is searching for volunteers as the number of children placed into foster care continues to rise across the state of Indiana.

It has been nonstop at the CASA offices in St. Joseph County.

“There’s been a large increase in the number of kids in care in St. Joe County,” said CASA Executive Director Brenda Matuszkiewicz.

In response to the increase, CASA is desperate to find volunteers to become court appointed special advocates—to serve as a voice for the often voiceless children in our community.

“We’re seeing many kids come into care where there’s been drug abuse, mental health issues in the family. And those issues seem to be on the rise and so we need volunteers to respond to those increases,” Matuszkiewicz explained.

CASA St. Joseph County serves more than 350 kids each year.

But at least 500 kids are on a wait list in need of an advocate.

Department of Child Services Regional Manager James Pippin said this is a statewide issue.

“Our case load across the state has gone up about 26 percent. We were somewhere around 13,000 kids two years ago. Right now we’re hovering around 18,000,” said Pippin.

The solution they say is simple:  Sign up to become a volunteer.

Volunteers need to be at least 21 years old, successfully complete a 35 hour training process, and able to dedicate at least 10 to 15 hours per month on the court appointed case.

Among several benefits, CASA said a child assigned to an advocate is more likely to be placed in a peaceful home and is shown to do better in school.

“Oh for goodness sake. What better thing can you do in your life than help a child and that’s what this is about,” explained volunteer Don Wycliff.  

CASA is looking for 350 volunteers.

Currently they have 120.

Training begins September 8th.

For more information on becoming a CASA click here.

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