BY ILENE HALUSKA email@example.com www.chronicle-tribune.com
Three CASA staffers and two volunteers from Grant County’s CASA gathered with hundreds of other state CASA volunteers at the Indiana Statehouse Monday.
About 300 advocates statewide attended the annual rally. It’s an opportunity for them to come together, for CASA awareness and to garner support for our cause, explained Leslie Hendricks, Grant County CASA executive director.
“It’s an opportunity for us to be inside the statehouse and for legislators to see us there, ” Hendricks said. She believes there’s a chance the organization could get a $2.1 million increase in funding for a total of $5 million. The legislators see how strong the organization is in the state at the rally. Hendricks did have to leave the rally early for appointments, but had left local Grant County legislators hand-written notes inviting them to the Marion CASA. The current $2.9 million for CASA overall gets dispersed to each of the county programs. Grant County gets approximately $21,000, she said.
“I will note that our number of children served here in Grant County rose from 250 in 2013 to 285 children in 2014,” Hendricks stated. ”Over 80 percent of our cases involve substance abuse by the caregiver. Our program provides an advocate to some of our most needy children in Grant County suffering abuse and neglect. Our volunteers stand up for these children to make sure their needs are being met at a time when their whole world has been turned upside down. ”
Volunteer Kelly Rittenhouse-Chastain and Hendricks explained that she volunteers, because she wanted to make an impact in the lives of children where she grew up here in Marion and Grant County, but she now lives in Shelby County.
Rittenhouse-Chastain believes there is a 22 percent increase in CASA programs across the state, because more children are coming though the Child in Need of Service (CHINS). Those children are removed from their home for abuse and neglect. More than 4,000 kids are waiting for a CASA volunteer.
“We were there to really pursue Sen. Luke Kenley, Appropriations Committee chair, to persuade him to increase the CASA budget by 2.1 million,” Rittenhouse-Chastain said, calling it “empowering” to be at such an event.