Happy birthday, CASA in Lee County! 2013 is the 25th year for the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program in Lee County. Lee County CASA began in September 1988. It has subsequently grown to be known as CASA of the 15th Judicial Circuit because the program also provides services to Carroll County (since 1994) and Ogle County (since 2006). Most birthdays are celebratory occasions, and so is this. However, this birthday is also being perceived as bittersweet.
CASAs are trained, volunteer citizen advocates appointed by the court in cases alleging abuse, neglect or dependency of a child. CASAs are also GALs (guardians ad litem) who look out for a child’s best interests during the course of the legal proceeding. CASA/GALs speak for the health, safety and best interests of the child. They give the child a voice in the court. They provide an independent assessment to help the court make an informed decision about the child’s future. CASAs help prevent children from being overlooked in the child welfare system.
The bitter comes from the fact that such a program is necessary in the first place. That our children are at risk from the parents, step-parents or a parent’s significant other they must rely on to protect and nurture them. That among the three counties served by CASA of the 15th Judicial Circuit, there may be 70-100 children needing the services of CASA at any point in time during the year(s).
The sweetness of celebration is from the fact that CASA has been here to serve Lee County for 25 years, and subsequently Carroll and Ogle counties. We can appreciate that the 15th Judicial Circuit has recognized the special interests of children in the court and child welfare system. We can be thankful that for 25 years, people have volunteered to take on the two, three, sometimes four or more years’ commitments to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children. We should take comfort in the knowledge that hundreds of children’s lives have been improved with the assistance of CASA.
Thank you to all who have supported CASA with your time, efforts and money. The service provided to the children of our communities and this birthday celebration, is yours as well as CASAs.
Glen Hughes, president
Trisha Morrow, executive director
CASA of the 15th Judicial Circuit
(serving Lee, Carroll & Ogle counties)
From the Aug. 14-20, 2013, issue