LIMA — The fifth annual Court Appointed Special Advocate Walk for Child Abuse Awareness was not about raising money or protesting the act.
It simply was a reminder to everyone that abuse is wrong, and to be a voice for children and speak out against it.
“This is simply to raise awareness and to honor the volunteers that do CASA work,” said David Voth, Director of the CASA program.
Voth said the CASA training program helps prepare volunteers to act as representatives who are in the juvenile court system due to dependency, neglect or abuse. Ohio law forbids children service agencies from making recommendations on where to place children, so the volunteer group is needed to help find children safe environments when needed.
“Last year we assisted 55 new children and were involved with 50 cases that had already been in the system,” Voth said. “So we served more than 100 children. So we make a difference.”
Volunteers go through a 36-hour training course to prepare to be an advocate in the court rooms. CASA is a part of Crime Victims Services in Allen and Putnam Counties and judges rely heavily on the group’s help when children are involved. Along with recommending placement, the advocates meet with the children, continue with follow up visits and speak in the best interest of the child all through the case until the child is safe and in a permanent environment.
About 20 people participated in the walk that started at Crime Victim Services at went through the downtown Lima area. The walk is held to bring the month of April to a close, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Voth said the volunteers are responsible for compiling an assessment into a court report and submitting it for judicial review to the respective court. Voth said CASA currently has 40 volunteers but still needs more.
“We like to make sure every volunteer has just one case at a time,” Voth said. “Everyone can make a difference by joining. We still need 20 to 30 more volunteers. It is a very rewarding way to donate your time.”
Voth said it was the fifth year that CASA had held the event.