Program Director: Chelsea Moser
Mission Statement: To advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in Juvenile Court Deprivation Proceedings.
Program: A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained community volunteer appointed by a judge to speak up for the best interests of an abused or neglected child involved in a juvenile court proceeding.
Every child should have a safe, loving and permanent home, but many do not. Each year in Georgia, thousands of children become entangled in the juvenile justice and foster care system because they are victims of abuse or neglect. A large majority of the children are taken from their homes and placed in an already overburdened system where they can get “lost” for months or even years.
Georgia’s CASA Programs provide an innovative cost-effective approach to a very urgent crisis. Community-
based programs recruit, screen, train and supervise volunteers
to provide advocacy for these victims and an independent source of information for the judge who must decide their future.
CASA volunteers serve as the eyes and ears of the court.
They interview anyone who
might be able to shed light on the child’s needs. The CASA volunteer goes to court and makes a recommendation to the judge, based on their independent assessment about what is in
the best interests of the child.
The CASA volunteer remains involved in order to keep the focus on the child until the case is permanently resolved.
Typically, Murray/Whitfield CASA volunteers handle only 1 or 2 cases at one time so they can take the time to interview everyone involved in the case and prepare a thorough report and recommendation to the court. The CASA volunteer’s only job is to speak for the child: to assure that his or her best interests don’t get overlooked while in protective custody and that the child is placed in a safe, nurturing, permanent home as quickly as possible.
CASA volunteers provide the following services:
The overall objectives of Murray/Whitfield CASA are:
The expected outcomes are:
A recent study found that children who suffer abuse and neglect are 53% more likely to become juvenile delinquents, 38% more likely to be arrested as adults, and 38% more likely to become violent criminals. CASA has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice as a model juvenile delinquency prevention program.
Outcomes: Murray/Whitfield CASA evaluates the effectiveness of services by tracking the percentage of foster children who receive CASA services and achieve permanency in safe, stable and nurturing homes. Participant outcomes for 2013 indicated that 75 families and 149 children were served. Of those cases, 31 cases were closed. Of the 52 closed cases: 40 % of the cases ended in reunification, 37% ended in adoption, and 10% in guardianship. In 2006 the Office of the Inspector General reported that children who have a CASA volunteer are substantially less likely to spend time in long term foster care: 13.3% of children with a CASA volunteer spent time in long term care, as opposed to 27% of children who did not have a CASA volunteer.
Program Funding: Murray/Whitfield CASA currently receives funding from the Department of Human Resources – Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF), Georgia CASA, local government, and United Way of Northwest Georgia. Staff includes Program Manager Bruce Kenemer, Volunteer Coordinator Chelsea Moser, Program Assistant Diane Green, and approximately 20 volunteers.
Collaborative Partners: Referrals are generated by the Juvenile Court Judge of both Murray and Whitfield Counties. The judge prioritizes referrals if they exceed the availability of CASA volunteers, assigning volunteers to the most vulnerable children.
Murray/Whitfield CASA works closely with the Department of Family & Children Services in Murray and Whitfield counties.