Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Johnson and Wyandotte Counties was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the John W. and Effie E. Speas Charitable Foundation to provide advocates to children involved in the court system due to abuse, neglect, and other forms of maltreatment.

CASA provides volunteers who advocate directly for children involved in the court system due to abuse, neglect, or divorce related custody and visitation disputes. Volunteers are quadruple screened at multiple levels including federal, state, and personal references. They must complete 30 hours of training involving the workings of the juvenile court system, the risk factors and impact of child abuse and neglect, communication skills, and many other topics.

Children involved in the court system due to abuse and neglect or divorce/custody disputes experience a significant number of challenges, including mental health issues, unstable living situations, and a court system that is both complex and overburdened. According to a joint random sampling of cases with CASA of Jackson County from 2011, 85% of children ages 4-21 had some form of mental health diagnosis. These children need mental health services, but often fail to receive these services due to foster parents or other caretakers being unaware of either the diagnosis or the need for mental health services. CASA volunteers are trained to access the mental and physical health services needed by children.  Children in foster care often experience negative outcomes due to the temporary nature of most foster care placements. A consistently present adult can help identify and address mental, physical, and emotional issues. Children with a CASA volunteer have the same CASA volunteer throughout their intervention, providing the child with a consistent adult presence.  CASA's volunteers are at the heart of the agency's efforts to make sure every child's best interests are upheld by the courts, and that every child has the best chance possible to find a caring and permanent home.

CASA of Johnson and Wyandotte Counties provides volunteer advocates who speak on behalf of the best interests of children who have become involved in the court systems of Johnson and Wyandotte counties (KS) due to abuse, neglect, and other forms of maltreatment, and also due to contentious divorce or custody proceedings. Founded in 1985, the agency currently serves nearly 500 children each year. CASA recruits, screens, trains, and coordinates nearly 200 volunteers. These volunteers establish relationships with their assigned children, investigating each child's circumstances and reporting relevant and accurate information to judges, allowing those judges to make the most informed decisions possible, and increasing a child's chances of finding a loving, permanent home. CASA's mission is to empower abused and neglected children with a volunteer's voice in court by seeking a safe and permanent home for each child.