LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Eight community members were sworn in as new Court-Appointed Special Advocate volunteers with CASA of Lexington this month.
The volunteers completed a 30-hour virtual training and will now be assigned to advocate for abused and neglected children in the family court system.
“Thank you all for agreeing to be CASA volunteers and to open your hearts to these children,” Fayette Family Court Judge Lucinda Masterton told the new volunteers during a virtual swearing in ceremony held over Zoom.
CASA volunteers take the oath of confidentiality with a judge before they are assigned to cases matched with their preferences and backgrounds.
“We are so fortunate that we have CASA … because the voice of the CASA is so vital for these children,” Masterton said. “Other than me, you are often the only consistent person in these children’s lives. They need you … it’s just so important for us to hear your voice.”
CASA volunteers visit regularly with the children on their assigned case, interview adults involved in the children’s life and review educational and medical records of the children. They write reports for the judge that help better inform decisions and lead to better outcomes for the children.
Nationally, a child who receives a CASA is more likely to receive services such as therapy or educational support; more likely to succeed academically, and half as likely to re-enter the foster system after being placed in a permanent home.
CASA children also spend on average five and a half months less in the foster care system, saving thousands of taxpayer dollars.
“We really do want to say thank you to you and your loved ones for making this commitment,” said Melynda Jamison, Executive Director of CASA of Lexington.
“You finished 30 hours of initial training. You’re here at graduation to be sworn in. Now the real journey begins of getting matched with a child or sibling set and being able to advocate on behalf of them.”
Jamison assured the new volunteers that CASA Volunteer Managers will be available to support them in their work, by joining them on home visits and offering advice and guidance from their experience.
“They’re always in court with you as well,” she said. “They’re there to guide you through the process.”
The new volunteers join more than 230 active CASA volunteers at CASA of Lexington. Last year, CASA volunteers in Fayette, Bourbon, Woodford and Scott counties advocated for 583 children.
But the number of new cases of child abuse and neglect in 2020 was more than double that, and the total number of abused and neglected children with open cases could be four times as big.
“You are so needed,” Jamison told the new volunteers. “And this is going to change your life.”
“That’s all true,” Masterton said. “And it’s important.”
CASA of Lexington is holding an in-person training for new CASA volunteers beginning June 15. A full schedule of training dates and more information about applying is available at www.casaoflexington.org/training.