COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) – In response to the increase in child neglect cases, the Pikes Peak area court-appointed special advocates (CASA) have appointed more than a dozen new volunteers at the agency.
According to a CASA spokesperson, the insulating effects of COVID have nearly doubled, if not tripled, the number of children who entered the justice system after reports of abuse.
“There are hundreds of kids waiting for a CASA volunteer,” said Keri Kahn of Pikes Peak CASA.
To manage the increase in child neglect cases, CASA recently appointed 15 new volunteers to the agency, bringing the total to around 300.
While that may sound like a lot, CASA told KRDO that it is still accepting more applicants to take the 30-hour training, which takes around five weeks.
“We’re still seeing higher numbers even though it’s been almost two years since we’ve seen higher numbers than before the pandemic, so the need for CASA volunteers is still huge,” she said.
After being appointed by a judge, a CASA volunteer can act as a mentor, friend and watchdog for the child while they remain in the justice system until the child can be placed in a safe and loving home.
According to data from the Colorado Department of Social Services, CASA received 15,069 referrals of child abuse in El Paso County in 2020. From Teller County, CASA received 518 referrals in 2020.
Another hurdle the agency faces – at least half of child neglect cases involve male victims, but it has been difficult to find male advocates to take CASA training.
“These boys haven’t really had a healthy, trustworthy male role model in their lives,” Kahn said. “So if we can get more male volunteers, they can show them what a safe and responsible man looks like when they grow up.”
According to the Colorado Child Welfare Workload Study published in 2014, she cites that El Paso County, at the time, had the greatest need for child welfare workers through the Department of Social Services.
Fast forward seven years later and not much has changed.
“The things that cause a parent or guardian to abuse or neglect children are still there… and they’re higher now than they were before,” Kahn said.
For more information on CASA, click here.