The fifth annual Southeast Nebraska CASA Gala will be an entertaining event this year as 176 Keys Dueling Pianos will battle it out for the entertainment portion of the evening.
The benefit gala this year will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 8 at the Harvest Hall with the entertainment beginning at 8:30 p.m.
Southeast Nebraska CASA provides compassionate adult volunteers who act as an advocate for an abuse or neglected child in the juvenile court system.
Although the advocacy work is provided by volunteers, there are costs involved for training, support, and supervision. Southeast Nebraska CASA is a 501(c)3 non-profit public benefit company and relies heavily on generous community donations.
For the past four years they have hosted an annual ‘Share Your Heart with a Child’ Benefit Gala. All proceeds raised support the CASA program in Seward County. The gala is planned and facilitated by a group of community volunteers.
Seward County CASA has been training volunteers and serving abused or neglected children since 1996.
“We have been striving to provide a CASA volunteer for every child who needs one and this past year we were able to do so,” Executive Director Wess Robotham said. “We also have volunteers ‘waiting in the wings’ for new children who may enter the system.”
Since November, 2011, Seward County CASA has expanded its services to train volunteers and serve children in Jefferson County.
“We are able to do so by receiving funding from the Jefferson County commissioners and utilizing grant monies from the Nebraska CASA Fund,” Robotham said.
That change has led to the organization changing its name to Southeast Nebraska CASA as its strategic plan is to serve five counties.
The National CASA Association and Nebraska CASA Association have a goal of serving every child who needs a CASA volunteer by 2020.
On Jan. 19, the Southeast Nebraska CASA Board of Directors voted to approve focused expansion to Butler County.
Discussion will begin and funding will be sought out, Robotham said.
The program is estimated to begin serving children in Butler County by October.
If passed, LB126, the Nebraska CASA Fund, would provide $500,000 with 80% of funds being used as pass-through grants to new and existing CASA programs in Nebraska. The bill was assigned to the Judiciary Committee and then reassigned to the Appropriations Committee. A public hearing date on the bill hasn’t been set yet. In the past two years, the fund provided $100,000 and $200,000 respectively. That funding will end in the fiscal year 2012-13 unless LB126 is passed.
The funding made it possible for Southeast Nebraska CASA to serve Jefferson County. It also provided funds for six people to attend the National CASA Conference and for Southeast Nebraska CASA to host the 11th Annual CASA Volunteer Conference for more than 45 CASA volunteers and staff from across Nebraska.
“This year we received $9,895 in grants from the Nebraska CASA Fund, $2,970 for expansion and $6,925 for the recruitment and training of new or existing volunteers,” Robotham said.
In 2011, 5,239 children in Nebraska were victims of maltreatment, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
This is a 70% increase from 2000 (Kids Count in Nebraska reports 2001-2012. In 2000, there were 3,074 victims.).
In 2011, 30,282 calls come to the child abuse and neglect hotline for alleged maltreatment (DHHS).
Every day in Nebraska, eight children are removed from their homes and enter foster care and 14 children are victims of maltreatment.
CASA has been in Nebraska for more than 36 years, 22 CASA programs serve 36 counties across the state, and 1,326 children had a CASA volunteer in 2012, according to the Nebraska CASA Association.
Between 2011-2012, Nebraska CASA programs served 89 more children and trained 73 more volunteers.
In Seward County, 27 children entered the juvenile court system due to abuse or neglect allegations and 24 children were assigned a CASA volunteer. Three children’s cases closed before reaching adjudication (the allegations were not admitted or denied).
“We currently have 16 active CASA volunteers, serving children or awaiting new cases,” Robotham said.
CASA Volunteers must be 21 years old, complete 35 hours of initial training on the juvenile justice court system, issues regarding child welfare and how to work with children and families and must attend at least three juvenile court hearings before they can be sworn in by a judge as a friend of the court.
Volunteers must also continue their child welfare/juvenile justice education for 12 hours every year.
For more information about CASA, to volunteer for the organization or to purchase tickets for the Gala, visit www.SoutheastNebraskaCASA.org or call 402-643-3695.