Practically every day, news stories about children who have been abused or neglected appear in the nation's newspapers and on television newscasts.
Horrific stories of children who were mistreated by the very people they were supposed to have been able to trust to love, nurture and keep them safe are splashed across the Internet with alarming regularity.
Unfortunately, some of those stories happen right here in Putnam County.
"Each week the Putnam County courts and the Indiana Department of Child Services in Putnam County are faced with the overwhelming responsibility to protect children," said Patti Harmless of the Putnam County Youth Development Commission. "The court recognizes that children thrown into the legal system need their own special voice. That special voice and representative is a CASA volunteer."
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. The Putnam County Youth Development Commission facilitates the Putnam County CASA program.
"We are dedicated to the mission of this program by ensuring that the best interests of abused and neglected children are presented in court," Harmless said.
The CASA program matches adults with children who are involved with court proceedings, was created as a national program in 1977. CASAs are trained community volunteers appointed by the juvenile court judges to advocate on behalf of children to make sure their best interests are served in court proceedings.
A CASA keeps up with a child's case as it proceeds though the system, making sure children end up in safe homes. Volunteers spend hours researching the cases of the children they are charged with representing, learning details about the child's situation and needs, then goes to court to make recommendations on what will benefit the child most in his or her future.
All CASA volunteers are trained in courtroom procedure, child development and the juvenile justice system. Volunteers receive training in general operations of the Department of Child Services, as they serve Children in Need of Services (CHIINS).
The special needs of abused and neglected children are addressed with ongoing training. Before he or she can be matched, a CASA volunteer will have gone through 30 hours of training.
Putnam County CASA is currently in need of new volunteers. Training will begin in October, and applications are now being accepted.
Any Putnam County resident who is interested in becoming a CADA should contact Harmless at 653-9342 to learn more about the application and interview process.