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Kearney/Buffalo County CASA?
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Lack of county support was part of the reason the Court Appointed Special Advocated (CASA) program disbanded in Buffalo County about 10 years ago.
But with more than 100 kids in the Buffalo County Court system and a three year deal with the county, supporters believe they're on the right track for a successful CASA program.
"We need the money, but we also need the fact that they are backing it," says Charlie Pickens, a former CASA board member. "I think if you don't have the county support that sort of reflects, like, well is it really a good program if the county won't support it?"
Now that they have that support Kearney/Buffalo County CASA Director Christina McIntire says they need volunteers.
"The juvenile court system cannot do this by themselves," she says. "Everybody that's involved in a child that's appointed to the court or is with a department or is providing services to children and families have too many children and too many families to work with."
CASA Volunteer Tim Peterson says CASA training has fully prepared him to help not only take the pressure off the courts and social workers, but to give a child or family one constant person they can turn to.
"What you are is an advocate for that child," explains Peterson. "Children are often in a situation that they're scared, they don't know what to say or do, and we as trained volunteers then step in to help those children not be so scared, and help them navigate the legal system."
McIntire says they're already serving 100% of the kids in Kearney County and in three years they hope to be serving 100% of the kids in Buffalo County too, but she says it takes a special kind of person to volunteer for this.
"Everyone else that's involved with their lives - they're all getting paid, the volunteer is not getting paid, and they're doing it because they're very passionate about the children and they truly, truly care about what happens to their kids and what's in their best interest," she says.
Peterson says being a child's advocate is a tough, but rewarding experience.
"When you go through the training you will feel like you have the ability or you are comfortable and confident that you can act on that child's behalf," he says.
While being a CASA is a big responsibility, officials say it's not a huge time commitment.
"If you have those people that say, well, you know, I don't know if I have the time to do it - 8 hours a month is really all it takes," says McIntire.
To learn more about CASA or about becoming a volunteer, use the information in the side box.