Montgomery Co. CASA shortage leaving kids without volunteers

Montgomery Co. CASA shortage leaving kids without volunteers (WKEF/WRGT)

DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - Last week, Fox 45's Shavon Anderson talked with the Miami County CASA/GAL program, to show the huge need for CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates).

Even with the shortage, Miami County is able to serve 100 percent of their cases. In Montgomery County, they're having to turn more kids away. Their CASA program has about 80 active volunteers. Manager Jane Novick said they'd like to see 200, but with the growing drug epidemic, that number is getting harder to fill.

Overwhelmed is an understatement.

"We just can't keep up with the pace at this point," Novick said.

Montgomery County is number one in unintentional overdose deaths.

"That transpires into a lot of children coming into the care of children's services," she said.

Last year, the agency saw 347 kids. This year so far, they've seen nearly 300.

"Usually I'm sending out two to three referrals a day almost," said volunteer coordinator Cassandra Burrell-Williams.

As the cases come in, where volunteers usually step-up, there's no one there.

"Right now, about 30 cases is what we've turned away," said Burrell-Williams. "30 children served is what we've turned away, and about 22 families for this year alone."

In 2016 they turned away 84 kids. Those who make it to a volunteer are increasingly similar.

"50 percent of my cases involve the use of heroin and drugs," said Stephanie Smith.

Smith started three years ago, filling a much needed slot. But, Novick said it's not only about numbers, it's about diversity.

"Thankfully, we just got a few Latinos, who also speak the language because there's no guarantee they do," said Novick.

There's a need for more Asians and African-Americans, even men to be role-models. It's a reason why Roger Neal joined 20 years ago.

"I knew that there were black children out there that needed a black face to come and represent them," he said.

Kids with CASA volunteers are more likely to be placed in permanent homes, or adopted, and half as likely to re-enter foster care.

"You have to fight for them no matter what," Neal said.

"I am that child's voice in that courtroom," Smith said.

The volunteer shortage is so bad that he state gave Montgomery County a grant, just for recruitment. The agency will be holding a summer training program for the first time ever, this year. If you'd like more information on how to volunteer, you can contact their office here.

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