Shortage of CASA volunteers impacting children locally

JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. —Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers who help abused or neglected children go through the court system. They’re vital for these kids. But there’s a shortage of them locally.

You may have heard of CASA before.

“It means that we are appointed by the court, we are the eyes and ears for the court, in the state of Oregon it’s a mandated program so that state says CASA must exist and every child must have a CASA,” said Dan Mata with Josephine County Casa.

CASA volunteers advocate for abused and neglected children with hopes to find safe and permanent homes. The volunteer works alongside DHS child welfare, the foster parents, and the child themselves. They report any findings to the judge, essentially acting as a voice for the child.

“That’s really what we want, the ultimate goal is reunification, CASA comes in as a third-party neutral objective role gathering information,” said Mata.

Dan Mata is the program manager of Josephine County CASA, he’s also a CASA volunteer himself.  A CASA can have up to 3 cases at a time, but cases can take up to a year or potentially even longer to finish.  Mata says across Jackson and Josephine County today there at over 200 kids without a CASA.

“There still going to trial they are still going to court but they have no voice essentially advocating for their best interest, they are going through the system and will go on without someone advocating for what’s in the child’s best interest,” said Mata.

Suzanne Callahan is with the Citizens Review Board, a community partner that works alongside CASA. She says the work CASA is doing is critically important.

“CASA’s are the only ones who serve that unique role by presenting the child’s voice and advocating only what’s in the child’s best interest, we very much rely on their input,” said Callahan.

And that input is needed more now, than maybe ever.

To be a CASA you have to be 21 or older, pass a background check, and commit 2 years to the non-profit. After that, they complete an online training that takes around 3 weeks to finish.

You can apply to be a CASA in Jackson County here or in Josephine County here.

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Jenna King is the 6pm and 11pm anchor for NBC5 News. Jenna is a Burbank, CA native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at Oregon she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through her internship with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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