Appleton, Oct. 22, 2013 – CASA of the Fox Cities, Inc. will begin training its first class of court-appointed special advocates on Wednesday, Oct. 23. These volunteers will undergo 40 hours of training over the next five weeks to prepare themselves for appointments by local judges to serve on behalf of abused and neglected children within Outagamie County courts.
“Our first volunteer training session is a crucial step in our agency’s path to ensuring abused and neglected children here in the Fox Cities have a voice within the court system,” said Executive Director Maria Turner. “I am inspired by the compassion and caring this group of volunteers has for tackling this challenging volunteer opportunity ahead of them. We couldn’t be more fortunate to see this quality of commitment and passion.”
The training session will include 18 community members (15 women and three men). It will welcome local experts and partners to assist over the next six weeks, including Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge John Des Jardins, Melissa Blom from Outagamie County Health and Human Services, Harbor House Children’s Advocate Tracy Plamann and staff and advocates from CASA of Brown County.
“A number of community partners will share their knowledge and expertise to assist our volunteers in understanding the court system, the child protection process, dynamics of families facing child abuse, domestic violence, poverty and mental health and diversity within families,” Turner said. “Our goal is to provide the highest level of training for our advocates over the next several weeks so judges can start assigning cases with the start of the new year.”
Typically, children who have “Child in Need of Protective Services” (CHiPS) orders are those eligible for appointment of a special advocate. In Outagamie County, this includes approximately 225 children annually.
“We know the need for this service is far larger than what this first group of volunteers will be able to support, but it is a very good start,” Turner said. “We will need to rely on financial support over the next several months to build our staff capacity in order to increase our volunteer corps. The need for our services is great, but so is the generosity in the Fox Cities, so I am optimistic we will grow quickly to meet the demand for our services.”
CASA national standards specify that each full-time employee can manage no more than 30 volunteers at any given time. Turner is currently the organization’s only employee. To meet the need, growth in staff capacity will be paramount.
Appleton Fox Cities Kiwanis Club provided a $2,200 grant to assist in funding the training session, and Fox Valley Technical College, ThedaCare and Children and Youth with Special Healthcare Needs have assisted with in-kind support.