Letters to the Pilot
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) are going to see a reduction in services to the abused and neglected children we serve if the legislature is unable to find additional money to fund the program.
We thank the senate for finding 80 percent of last year's budget for our program, but the 20 percent we'll have to cut is disproportionate to the average 6 percent other state offices are seeing for cuts. The CASA program should expect to make the same sacrifices as all other state offices and employees.
Last Thursday, initial proposals came out showing how the budget cut would affect CASA statewide. In both of the proposals, the Storm Lake office was eliminated. An unfortunate cut for the 45 children being served by one coordinator and a half-time secretary covering Buena Vista and Cherokee counties. These types of cuts across the state will weaken the supervision and support for the volunteers and thereby weaken the services provided to children.
It is important to remember that it has been estimated that the CASA program would cost Iowa $4-6 million if it were fully funded. Last year it cost only $1.2 million. The volunteers that worked 37,284 hours and drove 194,699 miles in 2001 make up the balance of the value of this program.
At one point in the discussions, someone wanted to have the CASA program privatized using a not-for-profit fundraiser to find the money. In these depressed economic times, it is doubtful we could compete with well established charities such as United Way and Red Cross. In my opinion, the public already funds the greatest share of this program through volunteers that step up to the plate and offer their time and resources to help abused and neglected children in their own communities.
CASAs provide the eyes and ears for the judicial system on many cases. These children are in the court system through no fault of their own. Please talk with your legislators and let them know you want your tax dollars to fully support the coordinating structure of this program - the volunteers will do the rest and provide just the type of community volunteering that President Bush has asked us to contribute.