CROWN POINT | Every year, April brings the promise of spring. It also represents a month in which child abuse prevention and awareness can help bring the hope of safe, permanent homes to thousands of abused and neglected children in Lake County.
Throughout the month,the Lake County Court Appointed Special Advocate Program will register community volunteers, by phone, to train as advocates for abused and neglected children, newborn through 18.
The 30-hour volunteer training will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6:15 to 8:30 p.m., May 7 through June 6, at the Lake County Juvenile Justice Complex, 3000 W. 93rd Ave.
For more information about becoming a CASA volunteer, or to register for the training class by April 30, call Liz Theodoros at (219) 660-6978, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Indiana statute mandates the appointment of CASA representation in 100 percent of child abuse and neglect cases. Presently, there are 90 Lake County CASA volunteers helping to ensure that children are placed in safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.
Many children are in need of and are waiting for volunteer representation. The program is currently appointed to represent the best interest of more than 2,000 children. By way of case volume, Lake County is the second largest juvenile court in the state, next to Marion County.
Potential volunteers must be 21 or older, have a high school diploma or G.E.D., not be an active foster parent, not have a criminal history, submit to a criminal background/child abuse registry check, not have a substantiated referral with any child protection agency, not be an employee of the Department of Child Services or a contracted child/family service provider, be willing to work with a diverse population, have good communication skills both oral and written, and agree to maintain strict confidentiality, professionalism, and objectivity.
Training includes lectures, video presentations, group discussion, reading homework and courtroom observation. Upon completion of training, volunteers are sworn in as officers of the juvenile court. Refreshments are provided.
A volunteer can work an ongoing case and attend court hearings, or choose to work temporary case assignments on a week-to-week basis. Volunteers are asked to work an average of 15 hours per month for 18 months, visiting children in their placements and gathering information about the children from teachers, doctors, foster parents, family case managers, therapists and other service providers.