This past year has been one of tremendous growth and progress for CASA of Jefferson County. We received several grants that have allowed us to accomplish many goals that were part of our Strategic Plan for 2016. One of those was to hire our Volunteer Coordinator, Martienne Cotter, who joined us in April and has proved to be a great addition to our team. We have been able to raise awareness of our program and improve volunteer recruitment through monthly newspaper ads, and in June, we opened our office in Hillsboro which has given us a wonderful space to conduct training classes, meetings, and our day to day business.
With now just under 700 kids in the custody of Child Protective Services in Jefferson County, about 600 of those are eligible to have a CASA Volunteer by their side. Although we have a long way to go before we reach our eventual goal of serving every child in need, the growth of our young program has been steady. We have expanded from 21 volunteers serving 36 children as of December 2015 to 45 active volunteers serving 72 children as of December 2016. The documented volunteer hours have increased from 599 hours in 2014 and 1140 hours in 2015 to 2136 hours in 2016. We have been able to offer three pre-service volunteer training class sessions this year and have completed our first volunteer in-service training session using the National CASA Fostering Futures curriculum.
Our CASA Volunteers each serve just one child or sibling group at a time. These dedicated volunteers are devoting their time and energy to advocating for the children that need a consistent and caring person in their lives. They are the heart of what we do, as they care so deeply about the kids. They are committing themselves to forming a relationship with the child through regular visits, watching out for them, and speaking up for their best interests for as long as they are needed. This is certainly a group of individuals that are worthy of our sincere admiration.
We continue to focus on strategies to address challenges that our program faces. We believe that our organization’s culture is open and inclusive and we have used our advertising budget to appeal to potential volunteers that represent cultural and gender diversity in order to better serve the children that come into contact with our program. We were successful with recruiting more male volunteers in 2016 with an average of two per training class. Another challenge we continue to face is the difficulty in obtaining cases to assign to volunteers. In a court system that is already overburdened, the additional work of referring cases to our organization can often be more than those involved are able to take on. We continue to search for methods to streamline the process and encourage our partner agencies to take advantage of our services and the assistance that we can provide.
As we look to the future of our program, we are confident that we will continue to meet our goals for the growth of our program. We are preparing to hire a second Volunteer Coordinator in April 2017 who can support additional CASA Volunteers. As always, we are striving to find improved ways to support our volunteers and the work that they do for abused and neglected children in our county.
CASA of Jefferson County