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17th Circuit Court

CASA - Court-Appointed Special Advocate

Young Girl

Kent County CASA Program
180 Ottawa Ave NW, Suite 5200
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
(616) 632-5112

Mission Statement

CASA of Kent County provides highly-trained volunteers to advocate in the best interest of abused and neglected children in family court proceedings.

CASA History

Judge David Soukup of Seattle, Washington first implemented the CASA concept in 1977. As a Judge he felt a compelling need to have more information available to him on which he could base his decisions, most of which had lifetime ramifications for children. Kent County's late Judge John P. Steketee was part of the group of then Juvenile Court Judges who named and initiated the program. Since the conception of the CASA program, CASA has grown to include over 900 member programs now in 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. An estimated 50,000 volunteers are "A Powerful Voice" for approximately 206,950 abused and neglected children nationwide. The National CASA Association has been established to provide leadership and lend technical support to new and existing programs. The Kent County CASA Program adheres to the program guidelines and standards established by the National CASA Association.

National Statistics

  • Approximately 3.3 million allegations of child abuse and neglect involving 6 million children were made to CPS agencies in 2008.
    In 2008, an estimated 772,000 children were substantiated as victims of child maltreatment, a rate of 10.3 per 1,000 children in the US and Puerto Rico.

  • African American children, American Indian or Alaska Native children and children of multiple races had the highest rates of victimization at 16.6, 13.9 and 13.8 per 1,000 children, respectively. Hispanic children and White children had rates of 9.8 and 8.6 per 1,000 children, respectively. Asian children had the lowest rate of 2.4 per 1,000 children. Nearly one-half of all victims were White (45.1%), one-fifth (21.9%) were African American, and one-fifth (20.8%) were Hispanic.

  • Children who had been prior victims of maltreatment were 94.6% more likely to experience an occurrence than those who were not prior victims. The youngest children (from birth through age 4) were most likely to be determined to be maltreated compared to all other age groups.

  • An estimated 1,740 children nationally (compared to 1,760 children for FFY 2007) died from abuse or neglect. The rate per 100,000 children was 2.33 deaths for FFY 2008 compared to a rate of 2.32 for FFY 2007. Children 0–4 years old accounted for 79.8% of child fatalities. Children younger than 1 year old accounted for 45.3% of all child fatalities.

  • Violence often occurs against women and children in the same family. Research indicates that 50–70% of men who assault their female partners also abuse their children.

  • On September 30, 2008, there were 463,000 children in foster care. They spent a median of 15.8 months in foster care.

Read the Full Report

Statistics source: The National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, National Statistics 2010

Kent County Statistics

  • At the end of 2013, 1,165 children were temporary wards of the court, 258 were permanent wards.
  • In 2012, 14,863 cases were investigated by Child Protective Service for abuse and/or neglect.
  • Of those cases, 2,475 were confirmed in children ages 0-17.
  • 1,656 of those cases involved children ages 0-8.
  • The Kent County CASA program began in 1991, training its first group of volunteers in 1992.
  • In 2013, CASA of Kent County advocated for 352 children.
  • CASA  of Kent County currently has 101 active volunteers.

The Value of a CASA Volunteer

A child with a CASA volunteer is more likely to find a safe, permanent home:

  • More likely to be adopted
  • Half as likely to re-enter foster care
  • Substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care
  • More likely to have a plan for permanency, especially children of color

Children with CASA volunteers get more help while in the system...

  • More services are ordered for the children

... and are more likely to have a consistent, responsible adult presence.

  • Volunteers spend significantly more time with the child than a paid guardian ad litem.

Children with CASA volunteers spend less time in foster care...

  • “It is quite remarkable that children without CASA involvement are spending an average of
    over eight months longer in care, compared to children having CASA involvement.”

... and are less likely to be bounced home to home.

  • CASA volunteers improve representation of children.
  • Reduce the time needed by lawyers
  • More likely than paid lawyers to file written reports
  • For each of 9 duties, judges rated CASA/GAL volunteers more highly than attorneys
  • Highly effective in having their recommendations adopted by the court

Children with CASA volunteers do better in school...

  • More likely to pass all courses
  • Less likely to have poor conduct in school
  • Less likely to be expelled

... and score better on nine protective factors.

Neighborhood resources, interested adults, sense of acceptance, controls against deviant behavior, models of conventional behavior, positive attitude towards the future, valuing achievement, ability to
work with others and ability to work out conflicts.

Evidence of Effectiveness

Become a CASA Volunteer

Qualifications

  • Be 21 or older
  • Be committed to helping children
  • Have good communication skills, good problem-solving skills and good common sense.
  • Have basic computer skills (Microsoft Word, e-mail, etc.).
  • Have a valid Michigan driver’s license and access to a reliable vehicle.
  • Be able to show proof of state-required automobile liability coverage.
  • Undergo a thorough background check.
  • Be fluent in English (bilingual volunteers are especially needed).
  • Respect and relate to people from various backgrounds (economic, cultural, educational) in a variety of settings.
  • Be able to deal appropriately with hostility, anger, and other emotions.

Time Commitment

  • CASA volunteers are required to commit themselves, once assigned to a case, till that case is discharged from the legal system.
  • CASA volunteers are expected to average 10 to 20 hours a month on a case.
  • A volunteer is required to see the child/children in their case a minimum of once every 10 days.

For more information on volunteering and training schedules, visit our website at www.casakentco.org.



Contact Us

Kent County Courthouse

Kent County Courthouse

180 Ottawa Avenue NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

(616) 632-5220

(616) 632-5130

Monday - Friday
8:00am - 5:00pm

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