CASA of the South Plains in crisis mode, need volunteers - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

CASA of the South Plains in crisis mode, need volunteers

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By Ann Wyatt Little - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – Desperate situations call for desperate measures. CASA of the South Plains is no longer taking on new cases. The board of directors voted this week to ask a judge to place a moratorium on new cases appointed to the organization.

The non-profit agency helps navigate abused and neglected children through the court system to find a permanent safe home.

They can't accept new cases because they don't have enough volunteers. It's only the second time since 1993 that CASA here in Lubbock has had to make such a drastic move.

The number of people volunteering and the overwhelming number of cases coming in just aren't adding up.

"We can't take any more. It was a horrible decision for us to have to make," explained CASA Board President Tommy Turner. Turner, a local attorney, says it's the last thing that the organization wants to do but without help from the community it left them with little choice.

"We could see it coming. Every time we walk by the fax machine there is a new case," said Rose Carkeet, director of development for CASA of the South Plains.

"I don't like being president and declaring a moratorium but it's because there is no volunteers," added Turner about the dire situation.

Turner says to meet state requirements 70 percent of cases have to be assigned to volunteers and currently only 46 percent of cases are covered by volunteers, but if the numbers don't come up, the agency could lose funding.

"They've been abused, neglected, and some are even addicted to drugs because their parents use them. It's not the kid's fault," said Turner.

Carkeet says for the past several years the region has placed among the highest in the state per capita for confirmed cases of child abuse. She says that rising statistic has only added to the problem they face.

CASA works because of volunteers. They are each assigned a child and serve as an independent voice for children in the foster care system as they navigate through the legal process to find a permanent home. On average volunteers spend between 5 and 15 hours a month advocating for the child they are matched with.

Carkeet and Turner say the job of an advocate is to make sure children don't fall through an over burdened system. "The issue is to make sure that child's case doesn't get put on back burner," said Turner.

Currently, 147 cases need a volunteer, but without them, staff is forced to pick up the slack.

CASA hopes the community answers its need, not for them but for the children.

"You may not be able to fix what horrible things happened to a child before they came into care at CASA, but you can have an impact on where they are going," said Carkeet.

CASA volunteers save counties across the South Plains the additional expense of hiring an attorney to serve as Guardian ad Litem for each case.

As soon as the agency gets more volunteers they will start taking on more cases.     

In 2010, CASA of the South Plains served 1,069 local abused children.

If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about how you can help, CASA staff members are waiting for your call.

www.lubbockcasa.org

©2011 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved.

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