Staff Report

A dozen individuals recently completed a six-week training course that qualifies them to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates and help children in the court system who are victims of neglect and abuse.

Advocates for Children, which serves Bartholomew, Jennings and Decatur counties, uses CASA volunteers to serve as the eyes and ears of the children in court and advocate for their best interests.

Bartholomew County Juvenile Magistrate Heather Mollo swore in the volunteers July 11. They are:

Bartholomew County: Donna Reeves, Amy Scrogham, Lindsay Noel, Cecily Martin, Terry Whittaker, Lisa Vincent, Tammy Bohmert, Samantha Cartwright, Avril Schutte, Niele McQueen

Decatur County: Diane Smith, Angela Mahoney

“We know that children with a CASA volunteer have better outcomes in the court system,” Mollo said in a news release. “We know that children with a CASA volunteer have better outcomes in school. Children with a CASA simply do better overall.”

Local service trends are slightly about the national average, and cases of child abuse and neglect in Bartholomew, Decatur, and Jennings counties are at a record high, said Rick Scalf, community outreach coordinator for Advocates for Children.

“Right now, we’re reaching about three-quarters of the children in need,” Scalf said in the news release. “By the end of June this year, Advocates for Children had served 754 local victims of child abuse and neglect, with more than 300 still on the waiting list. That tells me we can accomplish our goal of providing an advocate to every child who needs one, but only if our community embraces the responsibility we have to these vulnerable kids.”

The next next training session for individuals who wish to be CASA volunteers begins Monday.

“I want to encourage anyone who’s ever given any consideration to doing this work to contact me,” Scalf said.

Anyone interested in joining the next training session for CASA volunteers can reach Advocates for Children at 812-372-2808 or 877-604-9402. More information also can be found at apowerfulvoice.org.