CASA Lake County, a nonprofit organization that trains volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the juvenile court system, has announced a year-round class schedule to meet the county's increased reports of child abuse.
"These tough economic times have resulted in more alcohol and substance abuse, which fuels domestic and child abuse," said CASA Lake County Executive Director Terri Zenner Greenberg. "Our juvenile court judges have requested CASA volunteers to advocate for 55 new children, and the waiting list gets longer every day."
CASA Lake County, 700 Forest Edge in Vernon Hills, is offering more training sessions than ever before to keep up with the urgent demands of these vulnerable children.
CASA Lake County has retained two new coordinators of Advocate Services in an effort to speed up the training process. Debra-Lerner Schmidt, a former CASA volunteer and educator, has teamed up with Suzanne Cash, a seven-year CASA volunteer with a professional background in corporate product management and business coaching.
Starting on Feb. 5, an eight-session class will be held Tuesday and Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. On April 8, an eight-session daytime class will begin. Both classes will be at the CASA office in The Corporate Woods development.
"Our volunteers are ordinary people doing extraordinary things," Greenberg said. "They come from all over Lake and northern Cook counties -- from Evanston to Schaumburg. It is always so gratifying to see the class get sworn in at the Juvenile Court by the judges themselves -- it is a proud moment."
The classes cover advocacy techniques, child sexual and mental abuse issues, childhood development, adolescent behavior, court report writing, as well as court procedures and other legal aspects of the rights of children.
CASA advocates, who after training are assigned to their own case and supervised by experienced advocate managers, are fact-finders for the judge and represent the best interests of the child.
The goal is to return a child, taken out of an abused home, to a safe and permanent home as soon as possible.
CASA Lake County's 276 volunteers currently advocate for 564 children, a record number.
For more information about becoming a CASA volunteer or how you can support CASA Lake County's "I am For the Child" fund, call (847) 383-6260 or visit www.casalakecounty.com.