Abell Salutes: CASA

November 1989 / Salutes / Health and Human Services

A child may lose his own voice in his future; CASA makes the difference.

There are approximately 60 children in Baltimore City today, victims of physical and emotional abuse, whose trauma has been greatly eased be cause of CASA. The agency with its volunteers shepherd the children through the forbidding and complex legal and child welfare system — and give them another chance at life.

Baltimore City’s CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) pro­gram was founded in August 1988 by the Child Welfare Center of the University of Maryland School of Social Work and Community Plan­ning. It is modeled after similar programs operating in 40 states, in­cluding Montgomery and Talbot counties.

Today more than 70 volunteers are working an average of five hours a week, in service to the agency’s goals: to prevent abused and/or neglected children from being placed in out-of-home care, and to keep them from being involved in delinquency action of any kind. At the hands of a busy and insensitive bu­reaucracy, a child may well lose his voice in his or her own future; CASA, bringing to the child’s side an attentive and caring human being, is making the difference.

Baltimore City CASA’s operat­ing budget is between $150,000 and $250,000 for the 1989-90 fiscal year. Of this, $25,000 is provided by the University of Maryland School of Social Work, while almost $50,000 has come from The Abell Foundation. The federal government con­ tributes approximately $40,000 and an unknown amount is expected from the State of Maryland.

Does the program work? Is Bal­timore City’s CASA achieving its goals?

Sharon S. England, executive di­rector, points to results.

“In 26 cases we saw significant progress. And by ‘significant prog­ress’ I mean the degree to which we have affected positively the children’s and their families’ active involvement in accomplishing independent living. The children have learned seemingly small things which most of us take for granted — taking a shower, filling out a job application, speaking in appropriate tone and manner — but which for them mark enormous growth.

“In six cases we have prevented out-of-home placement.

“We’ve helped 26 teenagers whose children have been placed away from them to see their children, so critical at this time to the development of a bonding relationship.

“In 14 cases we’ve been able to contribute to the successful accomplishment of the child’s permanent plan, either through returning home, or adoption.”

Whatever judgment one uses to determine how well CASA is work­ing, there are at least 60 children out there with good reason to tell you that it is working very well indeed.