The CEO of the national organization of Court Appointed Special Advocates met Monday with high ranking members of the American Legion's Child Welfare Foundation in Indianapolis and the foundation's board approved a resolution for a partnership between the two organizations two days later.
Next it will go before the American Legion's full membership in the fall, where it is expected to pass.
This could impact the GAL/CASA office in Indiana, where more than 4,000 Indiana children remain on a waiting list for advocates in cases that involve abuse and neglect. All children in Child in Need of Services, or CHINS, cases must be appointed a GAL/CASA according to state statute, which is likely why so many children are still in need of help.
While this resolution formalizes the relationship between the American Legion and National CASA, last year the foundation awarded National CASA a $46,000 grant for outreach efforts, which resulted in the Forgotten Children Campaign.
Many American Legion members are already involved with their local CASA programs to help children, including Frank West of Indiana, a CASA and American Legion member who referred to the waiting list and how important it is that more volunteers participate. He mentioned that in Grant County there are 159 unassigned CASA cases, and 26 volunteers for the CHINS in that county.
He volunteers as a CASA, he said, because the military teaches its members they have a social obligation and it's important to get involved at the local level. He added, "CASA volunteer work is self-rewarding because you can see the child's appreciation when you tell him you are there to represent his best interests, not his parents."
This partnership would further promote CASA efforts by encouraging other American Legion members to participate in their local CASAs, potentially reaching out to more than 14,000 American Legion posts worldwide, or about 2.6 million members, plus their families and friends.
Michael Piraino, chief executive officer of the National CASA Association based in Seattle, said that this partnership is unique due to the number of American Legion members and because they are so spread out around the country.
He is excited about the partnership because the current American Legion volunteers are already doing a good job, and they are easy to train and motivated to help.
For more information about local CASA programs, contact the Indiana CASA program. Information about the American Legion's Child Welfare Foundation is available on their site.
The April 15-28, 2009 edition of Indiana Lawyer included a story about the waiting list for CHINS cases in Indiana.