Volunteers and leaders from the Wood County CASA/GAL program joined hundreds of child welfare advocates from across Ohio for the 28th annual Celebrate Kids! Conference in Columbus.
There was a record turnout at the three-day event put on by the Ohio CASA/GAL Association, with over 600 people attending for training and discussions.
With over 16,000 children in care in Ohio at any given time, this training is more essential than ever.
“The annual conference in Columbus is a perfect time to celebrate the important work of our CASA volunteers and to learn and engage with topics that will benefit our collective aim – to advocate for the needs of Wood County children who have experienced abuse or neglect.” said Kristen Leverton, director of the Wood County CASA/GAL program. “Our program currently has 32 volunteers serving on behalf of 49 children. With more volunteers, we can serve more children. ”
Volunteers got a wide range of training, including topics like helping children with trauma, navigating the court system and guiding children as they age out of the foster care system.
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers are appointed by a judge to advocate for a child’s best interest in the court system. These volunteers are community members of all walks of life who commit to engage in the court system and directly help children who are experiencing abuse and neglect.
CASA volunteers serve children in 60 Ohio counties, an all-time high, just like attendance at this conference. Overall, there are 47 CASA/GAL (Guardian ad litem) programs serving nearly 10,000 children in Ohio annually.
The Wood County CASA/GAL program launched in 1988, serving children across the community.
“It is heartening to see so many people from across Ohio come together to help children who need it most,” said Ohio CASA Executive Director Doug Stephens. “Training like this is key to making sure
children experiencing abuse and neglect have a voice. There are children in every corner of the state that need a CASA volunteer right now.”
Attendees participated in trainings, discussion sessions and more, fulfilling needed training hours to serve as a CASA volunteer or attorney GAL for example.