The mission of CASA of Shawnee County, Inc. is to utilize volunteers to advocate for the best interest of children and youth involved in the court system.
The purpose of this advocacy is to provide a voice for children in an effort to have informed and expedient decisions made about their futures.
Only about 35% of Children in Need of Care in Shawnee County have an advocate assigned to their case. There simply are not enough volunteers nor funding to provide the advocacy needed. Of that 35%, we still have over 500 children waiting for an advocate to be assigned to their case.
THE NEED IS GREAT.
CASA of Shawnee County, Inc. was incorporated on November 25, 1986. This was the culmination of many months of intense activity by a small group of individuals who believed a need existed for volunteers to advocate for children involved in the court system. In May, 1985, Kansas Action for Children requested that the Junior League of Topeka conduct a survey of the community to determine whether the need did in fact exist. The Junior League agreed and appointed a committee of three to conduct the survey. The committee determined that a CASA organization was needed and submitted several grant applications for funding, including a request to the Junior League of Topeka. The request to the Junior League was for $25,750 and volunteers over a three year period. The funding was to be available on a declining basis and matching funds were required. An expanded group of 12 individuals, which called itself the Steering Committee, was charged with the task of establishing a CASA organization.
In 1986, in addition to writing the Articles of Incorporation, the Steering Committee also wrote bylaws; hired the Executive Director, Sue Lockett; secured an office in the Jayhawk Tower Building at 700 Jackson; established an advisory board and worked through a speakers bureau to inform the community of its existence and purpose; and were granted 501(03 status by the IRS. At the time the organization was incorporated, members of the Steering Committee became the founding board and began to recruit other members of the community. The first Annual Meeting was held.
The required matching funds were provided through a start-up grant from the Department of Health and Human Services. The Juvenile Judge, Executive Director and Board President attended a nationally funded conference in Washington, D.C. for training of grant recipients.
By January 1987, the new organization was ready to train its first volunteers. The class consisted of 15 hours of training and at its completion 16 CASA volunteers were sworn in by Juvenile Judge Dan Mitchell. Those early CASAs were soon joined by others as a second training class was held three months later. By May, 29 CINC (Children in Need of Care) cases had been assigned to trained volunteers.