Volunteers ready to help thousands of kids caught in court systems likely due to opioid epidemic
MIAMI VALLEY (WKEF/WRGT) – A woman sprawls unconscious in a parking lot. In the stroller at her side were needles, alcohol and a baby.
The haunting story, printed in black and white on a pamphlet distributed at the Montgomery County Juvenile CASA Program’s annual recognition dinner.
When talking about kids stuck in the court system, there’s usually few occasions to celebrate.
Thursday night was a rare exception. Judy Marcum was among dozens who were sworn in to serve.
“I knew there were children out there, but I didn’t realize the numbers,” Marcum told FOX 45’s Shavon Anderson.
A recently retired special education teacher, Marcum said she felt drawn back to helping kids after seeing a Facebook advertisement on the CASA program. Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers who act as the eyes and ears for children going through the system, until their case closes.
“You start with one child and then you do more, but to make a real difference would mean a lot to me,” Marcum added.
Nationwide, the drug epidemic is forcing kids into foster care in bigger numbers than the amount of volunteers standing by. Right now, nearly half a million kids are still waiting for an advocate, and those statistics trickle down to the local levels.
“Unfortunately, it’s all over the papers about the opioid epidemic,” said Jane Novick, the Montgomery County CASA Program Manager. “That leads to a lot of children that are alleged abused or neglected.”
There is a silver lining in the uphill battle. The most recent group of volunteers, more than 20, is the largest ever sworn in.
“To have one adult be an advocate for this one child, is a powerful thing,” said Marcum.
Kids with CASA volunteers are more likely to be placed in permanent homes, or adopted, and half as likely to re-enter foster care.
If you’d like more information on how to volunteer, you can contact their office here.