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Advocates for Children Seeking Financial Help

Rich Egger

The Court-Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA_ program is still looking to the community for donations to help support the volunteers of McDonough County.

The county board voted in October to approve a court fee for CASA funding. This fee went into effect on December 1, but CASA volunteers don’t plan to rely on these funds for several more months.

“It takes a while for it to actually be collected,” said Clairice Hetzler, Executive Director of the Advocacy Network for Children.

The Advocacy Network for Children oversees CASA in McDonough County along with similar programs in eight other counties in the area.

The CASA program started in McDonough County in July 2011 and has relied on grants and donations from community groups to support its 16 volunteers.

While county funding will be a beneficial source for the program, the new court fee may not be the solution to CASA’s financial need.

“We need to do our own fundraising to make [the program] self-supporting,” said Patricia Walton, an Associate Judge in the Ninth Judicial Circuit and supporter of the CASA program.

Judge Patricia Walton

“We need to be able to take care of our own program and our own children in McDonough County.”

CASA works with children and their non-offending family members to represent the best interest of the child in the court system.

Because Macomb no longer has a branch of the Department of Child and Family Services, Judge Walton said that the CASA program is an important part of the court system.

“CASA volunteers are the eyes and ears of the court,” said Judge Walton. “They have the opportunity to… provide a lot of information that perhaps a caseworker who is overloaded cannot. So it’s really critical to keeping children safe in our community.”