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CASA swears in first Jessamine County volunteers

Submitted

CASA of Lexington added its first Jessamine County volunteers at a swearing in ceremony held last week.

Of the 14 new Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers sworn in, four plan to serve abused and neglected children in Jessamine County.

“I want to put these new volunteers to work helping children as quickly as possible,” said Jeff Moss, Jessamine County’s family court judge. “They will provide invaluable information and insights into these children’s lives. Ultimately, they will help us achieve better outcomes for our children’s futures.”

Fayette County Family Court Judge Lucinda Masterton swore in the new volunteers in an emotional ceremony that was held in-person for the first time since February 2020. Friends, family and CASA of Lexington staff cheered and congratulated the new volunteers after the swearing in.

Judge Masterton told the new volunteers she has seen many cases where the CASA volunteer’s attention to a child’s needs made a huge difference.

In one case, the CASA volunteer recognized that a child’s behavioral problems were tied to hearing loss. The child was enrolled at a school where they could learn American Sign Language and given cochlear implants. The child is now doing better behaviorally and will likely be adopted, Masterton said.

“It was just a miracle having that person who looked at the whole situation,” she said. “Nobody comes in other than the CASA to say what is really going on with this child.”

Last year, 263 children in Jessamine County were abused or neglected, according to data from the Administrative Office of the Courts. Kentucky as a whole has the worst rate of child abuse and neglect in the nation, according to the most recent federal Child Maltreatment Report. About one out of every 50 children in Kentucky is abused or neglected each year. The rate of abuse and neglect in Jessamine County is slightly higher than the state average.

“There are hundreds of children in the Jessamine County Family Court system right now who could benefit from having a CASA volunteer to advocate for them and only them,” said Melynda Jamison,

Executive Director of CASA of Lexington. “Our first four Jessamine County volunteers will probably make a difference for at least eight of those children in their first year.”

New CASA volunteers complete a 30-hour training course, held on nights and weekends. Then, they are sworn in and matched with children in the family court system who need an advocate. A CASA volunteer visits with their assigned child regularly, talks to adults involved in the child’s life and reports back to the judge, providing a level of detail about the child’s life and what they need that isn’t otherwise available.

CASA of Lexington’s next volunteer training course begins Sept. 7. More information about the training and an application to be a CASA volunteer are available at www.casaoflexington.org. Virtual trainings held through Zoom are sometimes available, as well. Anyone interested in learning more or becoming a CASA volunteer can also email info@casaoflexington.org.

About CASA of Lexington

CASA of Lexington’s trained and supervised volunteers advocate through the family court systems in Fayette, Bourbon, Woodford, Scott, Jessamine and Garrard counties to ensure all victims of child abuse and neglect are safe and thrive in a permanent home. Changes such as where the child lives or goes to school, changes in social workers, teachers and friends, as well as the uncertainty of what life holds, can be very overwhelming for these children. The CASA volunteer is there to help recognize what the child needs, work to minimize these detrimental changes, and advocate for positive changes for the child’s future. Learn more at casaoflexington.org, by calling (859) 246-4313 or by emailing info@casaoflexington.org.