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. And like most counties that have had a CASA Program for several years, Howard County doesn’t have enough child advocates.

Katina Silver, director of the CASA Program of Howard County, told us the agency’s 37 volunteers are serving about 157 children.

Since the Howard County program was begun in 1986, 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. Thirty-four children currently await services.

More than 70 percent of the children represented by the CASA Program of Howard County were removed from their parents’ care because of alcohol or drug abuse, Silver said.

You can support the local CASA program by participating in its Scavenger Hunt fundraiser Saturday. Pre-register your four-person team at The hunt will begin at 10 a.m. at Kokomo Municipal Stadium. Cost to participate is $10 per person in advance or $15 the day of the event. Children ages 6 and under are free and do not count towards the number of team members.

And if you’re looking for a way to make a difference in your community, 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?

Kokomo Tribune editorial board

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