Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

April 30, 2014

Volunteer, help a child

The future of our communities, our country and our world lies in the hands of children. While every child needs education, support and mentoring to reach his or her full potential, there are those children who find themselves in situations not of their making.

Those times often come when children must be removed from the care of their parents due to neglect, abuse or other issues. When it happens, they enter the child welfare system, which can lead to foster care and court appearances.

Because they’ve become wards of the court, Indiana law requires the children be represented by an advocate.

Those court-appointed, special advocates champion a child’s interests as he or she passes through the court system.

State officials approved a CASA Program of child advocates for Tipton County just last year. And like most counties that have had a CASA Program for several years, Howard County doesn’t have enough child advocates.

Volunteer recruiter for the Howard County program, Dominique Hayes, in a story we published Tuesday, said CASA has 85 children without a volunteer advocate to help guide them through the legal system.

A year ago, Howard County had 48 advocates and 52 children on its waiting list.

Since the Howard County program was begun in 1986, Hayes said volunteers have been able to keep up with the organization’s caseload. But a spike in substance abuse has led to more cases of child abuse and neglect.

If you’re looking for a way to make a difference in your community — in Howard or Tipton counties — you couldn’t find a better opportunity than becoming a child advocate.

Volunteers must be more than 21 years old, pass a criminal background check and be able to give five hours a month for a child. Volunteers undergo a 32-hour training program to prepare them for their first assignment.

Duties of volunteers include meeting with the child and his or her biological parents and foster parents to gather information and determine whether the child’s needs are being met.

What better way to ensure these children receive the support and help they need?

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