Abused and neglected children are provided with trained volunteers, Court Appointed Special Advocates, who advocate in Court to ensure each child a safe permanent home.
Real LifeVoices for Children is Howard County's Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program, part of a nationwide effort begun by a Seattle judge more than 15 years ago. Children were being lost in an overburdened child welfare system that didn't have the manpower to pay attention to the needs of the children in its charge. All too often, judges or juvenile masters had to make decisions with very little available information about the homelife or welfare of the children involved. In response the Seattle judge called for community volunteers who would spend time with the children, learn about their situation and serve as their advocates in court.
Voices for Children, begun in the county in 1990, has more than 80 volunteers serving as children's advocates. Trained volunteers advocate for what is in a child's best interest during court hearings keeping the focus of the proceedings on the child. This year 101 children were served, with 22 cases successfully closed, 10 children were adopted, four families were reunited and eight children were placed with relatives. However, there are still children who need a volunteer to speak for children who can't speak for themselves.