Who We Are
CASA of Washington County Indiana was created in 1987 out of the need for abused and neglected children in our community to have a voice during legal proceedings.
The heart of our organization are our Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers. These highly-trained, caring adults are appointed by judges to advocate for a child's best interest. Volunteers work with legal professionals, social workers, teachers, and service providers to ensure that judges have the information they need to make the most well-informed decisions for each child. CASA Volunteers stay with a case until the child has been placed in a safe, permanent home.
For the past 35 years, volunteers for CASA of Washington County Indiana have been advocating for abused and neglected children here in our community.
What does a CASA volunteer do?
In child welfare cases, the parents and Department of Child Services are represented by attorneys, but the only one in these case without legal representation is the child. That is where the CASA volunteer comes in. The CASA volunteer speaks for the child in court when the child is unable or unwilling to do so.
CASA volunteers are trained to act as first-hand experts on the individual needs of abused and neglected children in the system, giving them the best possible chance at a hopeful future.
As an appointed member of the court, a CASA volunteer assumes the following core responsibilities:
Serve as a fact-finder for the judge by thoroughly researching the background of the assigned case;
Speak on behalf of the child in the courtroom, representing his or her best interests;
Act as a "watchdog" for the child for the duration of the case, ensuring it is brought to a swift and appropriate conclusion.
The CASA volunteer also communicates on a regular basis with parents, family members, teachers, counselors, and family friends in an effort to determine what is in the best interest of the child.
More than 4500 CASA volunteers are advocating for over 24,000 children in Indiana courts each year.
Our Mission Statement
The mission of the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) of Washington County Indiana, Inc. is to advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children within the court system. Based on the belief that children are entitled to a permanent, safe, secure and enriching home environment, CASA works in the court system through screened, trained and supervised volunteers in collaboration with key agencies, legal counsel, and community resources to serve as the child's advocate.
How CASA works in Washington County
Currently, there are approximately 20 CASA volunteers in Washington County. On average, CASA volunteers advocate for between 40 and 50 abused/neglected children in Washington County each year.
CASA of Washington County Indiana works in conjunction with the Washington County Circuit Court and the Honorable Judge Larry W. Medlock in the adjudication of Child In Need of Services (CHINS) cases involving abused and neglected children. CASA volunteers report their findings and recommendations to Judge Medlock in court.
In Indiana, CASA volunteers are fully empowered to advocate for the children; they have full–party status in child welfare cases, which means they have the right to attend hearings, present information to the court, obtain relevant records, and make recommendations and requests to the court on behalf of the child.
Judge Larry W. Medlock
The need for additional CASA volunteers in Washington County cannot be overstated.
As the addiction epidemic grips our county, more and more children find themselves in unstable living situations, through no fault of their own.
How We're Funded
As a certified program of the state of Indiana CASA/GAL, we receive funding from the State of Indiana called "Matching Grants". The amount of funding CASA of Washington County Indiana receives from the state is pro-rated based on the number of cases filed in the previous calendar year.
In addition to this portion from the State, the court we serve is also required to match the amount the state provides. This means we receive funding from the Washington County Circuit Court as well.
Independent from the funding by the state of Indiana and the Washington County Circuit Court, CWCI also solicits and accepts donations from private citizens, services/civic organizations and businesses in Washington County. Every dollar donated stays in Washington County. In addition, we apply for local, state, regional and national grants targeted at organizations whose mission it is to work with abused/neglected children.
The first CASA program was founded in 1977 in Seattle, Washington by Judge David W. Soukup. He realized that abused and neglected children were often inadvertently re-victimized by overburdened, understaffed and under-resourced courts and public social service agencies.
Indiana's CASA program (the Indiana Child Advocates Network) was founded in 1989, and Indiana CASA programs are now located in 86 of Indiana's counties. Indiana state law requires the appointment of either a GAL (attorney guardians ad litems) or a trained CASA volunteer in all Child in Need of Services, or “CHINS” cases, which are abuse and neglect cases.
CASA of Washington County was founded in 1987 by then-Washington County Circuit Court Judge, the Honorable Robert Bennett.