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Volunteers Needed as Voices for Indiana's Abused, Neglected Children

PHOTO: Court Appointed Special Advocates in Indiana advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children whose families are involved with the child welfare system. Photo credit: Stephan Hochhaus.
PHOTO: Court Appointed Special Advocates in Indiana advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children whose families are involved with the child welfare system. Photo credit: Stephan Hochhaus.
March 9, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS - Special volunteers in Indiana are helping to make a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children. The Indiana Supreme Court's state director and court-appointed special advocate Leslie Dunn says there are thousands in the child welfare system who go to court alone with no one to speak on their behalf.

She says Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) can be the voice of these children, and mentor them while in foster care.

"Our only job is to get to know that child, and help understand what they need and encourage them to stay in school," Dunn says. "To better their life even though they may be going through a really difficult time to stay positive and come out of this strong."

There are nearly 3,500 of these volunteers in Indiana, advocating on behalf of 18,000 children. But Dunn says there are still more than 4,000 children without one. At a noon rally at the Statehouse, CASA volunteers and former foster children from around the state will gather attention to the importance of the program as well as the need for more volunteers and more funding.

Dunn says CASA volunteers provide one-on-one attention to children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, addiction or other problems. She says it's an opportunity that requires special training.

"You're going in a crisis, in a disaster area of these people's lives and you've got to know how to handle that," says Dunn. "We give them training on dealing with families in poverty, and cultural competency, and abuse and neglect, and how you talk to a child."

Dunn says there are programs located in most Indiana counties, and Hoosiers interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer can check online at casa.in.gov. In 2013, CASA volunteers contributed more than 430,000 hours of their time to advocate for abused and neglected children.

Mary Kuhlman/Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - IN