CASA nonprofit coming to Marathon County to help children in court

CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, and it will work with Social Services and judges
Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 3:48 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - A national nonprofit organization helping abused and neglected children during the court process is now coming to Marathon County.

The Court Appointed Special Advocates, also known as CASA, work alongside Social Services and Judges to make the court process better for the child. National studies by CASA have shown that if a CASA advocate is on a case, that child is more likely to succeed in school, be stable within their community, and they’re less likely to re-enter the foster care system.

“It really can help build resilience in a child, but also help the court process be more efficient,” said Christy Keele, Executive Director of CASA Marathon County, Inc.

Discussion about a Marathon County CASA branch started about five years ago. Keele says it’s been a long process. She hopes that they’ll be up and running soon. They’re looking to be recruiting at the end of September/ beginning of October, and starting their first volunteer training in November. They hope to be working on court cases by the end of January.

“It allows for a court-appointed special advocate, or a volunteer for the community, who goes through some rigorous training to be appointed by the court, to help represent children who are placed in the foster care system,” said Keele.

During the court process, a lot of people are involved. Social services, represented by the county, do investigations and determine whether a child will go into the foster care system. There’s also a guardian ad litem attorney on a case if a child is 12 or under. CASA volunteers also have a role.

“We can be the eyes and ears of the court, but also the hands and feet of the whole team,” Keele added.

CASA volunteer duties are to visit the child at least once a month face to face and be in contact with teachers, medical professionals, and other team members. They’re sworn in by the court and are given a court order to represent a child’s best interest.

“A volunteer has a little bit more time because they’re committed to one case and a couple of children. Versus Department of Social Services has many cases,” Keele said.

She said it’s not only important for the children involved. “It really affects all of the community. It is helping to support and represent the kids who are the future of our community.”

The CASA organization started nearly 40 years ago. Now they have around 1,000 programs in the United States. Marathon County will be the 10th program in Wisconsin, and 15 counties will be served once Marathon County is sworn in.