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For the past two years in Columbia County, children who find themselves in the court system for abuse and neglect have had an additional voice in their corner. This voice is provided by volunteer advocates who are part of the Columbia County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program.

In recognition of the difficult work that these CASA volunteer advocates do, we invite you to join us to say thank you to these amazing volunteers and help raise funds to continue this important work at the 2nd Annual Columbia County CASA Celebrates that will take place at 6 p.m. on Oct. 21 at The Ball Room – 112 E. Cook St – in downtown Portage. This fun filled event will feature delicious food, including a dessert table donated by Festival Foods, raffles, a silent auction and live music provided by the very talented Kaylin Kole.

This year’s event is presented by Crawford Oil, and co-sponsored by Community Bank of Portage, Waddell and Reed, Beard Chiropractic, Rotary Club of Portage, Divine Savior Healthcare, John and Kay Miller, and Micki Bender. As well as supporters Don Rick Insurance and Davis & Page, LLP.

Tickets are $25 and include entrance into a door prize drawing for $200 in gas cards and car washes donated by Crawford Oil. Raffle tickets for purchase at the event will also feature a 2-night luxury cabin at Edge O’Dells, a 43-inch Smart TV donated by BJs TV & Appliance and cash. Check our facebook and website for continued updates on many great silent auction items available for bid. Tickets can be purchased by calling 608-745-9977 or online at http://bit.ly/casacelebrates2019 .

Columbia County CASA is a non-profit that recruits, trains, and empowers volunteers to be the voice of these children in the court system. It is part of a national network of 950 state and local programs serving children in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

Nationally, the CASA program was started in 1978 by Seattle Superior Court Judge David Soukup, who saw that although there were many people involved in each court case, what he felt was lacking was someone solely focused on the best interest of the children in these very complex cases. This lead to the creation of a volunteer-driven program where advocates can be the voice for children who are victims of abuse and neglect. CASA volunteer advocates are often referred to as “the eyes and ears of court.”

It is undeniable that our child protection system is overwhelmed and judges, social workers, guardians ad litem, and service providers are overburdened, and the opioid epidemic has only increased the amount of children that find themselves in the system. The intent of the CASA program is not to duplicate the roles and responsibilities of these agencies but to work alongside them as a collaborator and a voice for the child throughout this very tumultuous time in their lives. Nationally, children with a CASA spend, on average, 1.8 months less in foster care than a child without a CASA. They are more likely to do better in school, have decreased behavioral issues, and are less likely to be moved from home to home. In addition, the CASA volunteer advocate also provides a positive, consistent adult presence in the life of the child and paints a clearer picture for the judges by filing reports directly to the courts in these very complicated cases.

According to National CASA, in 2018, over 93,000 CASA volunteer advocates across the nation served a total of 271,800 children. These volunteers have gone through an intensive 30-hour pre-service training, passed background checks, provided references, and are sworn in as a friend of the court. They are then assigned to a child, meet with that child on a regular basis and provide reports back to the court on progress in the case. Columbia County CASA volunteer advocates are currently serving 21 children and have invested over 1,100 volunteer hours back into our community over the last year.

The work of Columbia County CASA could not be done without the efforts of our volunteers and the support of many generous sponsors throughout the community. Although the work is challenging, there are lots of things to celebrate as we look forward to continued growth and a sustainable CASA program in Columbia County. We hope to see you on at 6 p.m. on Oct. 21 at The Ball Room in downtown Portage!

Columbia County CASA is a non-profit organization and is funded through public and private grants, and corporate and individual donations. For more information on the event, to donate, or to volunteer go to columbiacountycasa.org.

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