PADUCAH, Ky -
Many children who are abused or neglected end up in the court system, and that system is overwhelmed so if you’re able to help, it could be a great benefit to the courts and ultimately, the kids.
In the lobby of the Child Watch building, he stands boldly in the corner. Spider Man watches over everyone, but especially the children.
"Spider Man’s our friend. He’s been around for a while," says Julie McKeel, CASA Program Coordinator.
It’s an old cliche but you don’t have to be a superhero to make a difference, "especially for some of the older boys who are in foster care and they relate a lot better to a male figure.”
The average age of the children served by CASA is 7 but we’re actually talking about kids as old as 18 and as young as newborns.
"These are children who have been abused or neglected and are in the court system; so this is a volunteer-based system. The judge will assign a CASA volunteer to a child.”
The CASA volunteers then get to know the child and everyone in that child’s life: biological parents, foster family, teachers, doctors, therapists, social workers.
“Really get a good feel for what’s going on with the child, how the child’s doing in foster care, and then makes a report to the court, makes recommendations as to things that are in the child’s best interest," said Julie.
It’s a big responsibility but Julie trains volunteers extensively - volunteers like Chuck Mullen, “it’s our responsibility to raise these children properly. Sooner or later, the cycle has to be broken. Kids are great if they’re given the chance.”
Make no mistake, though; some of the kids’ stories and situations are hard to imagine.
“It is heartbreaking. It is sad. One thing that we say around here is you can’t control where an abused or neglected child came from but you can have something to do with where they end up," said Chuck.
Volunteers say it is a very rewarding experience, even in trying times.
Chuck Mullen is unfortunately the exception; Only one in six CASA volunteers are men while -half- the kids CASA serves are boys. Again, you don’t have to be Spider Man or any kind of super hero. They will train you -- and you will be ready.
If you want to get involved, you can call Julie McKeel at 270-443-1440 or toll free at 866-443-1440.