Grant Application Entries
CASA, Inc. (dba CASA of the River Region)
982 Eastern Parkway, Box 9
Louisville, Kentucky 40217
Director, Development & Communications
Becoming a Model of Volunteer Service
(This is resubmission of project submitted in Spring; revised/updated due to COVID-19.)
Incorporated in 1984, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the River Region was created to represent children with active cases of abuse and/or neglect in Family Court. This is accomplished by training everyday citizens to advocate for maltreated children (birth to 18 years of age). CASA gives these vulnerable children a voice in Family Court and other settings by ensuring a safe home, academic success, access to medical/therapeutic services.
CASA volunteers are interviewed, screened, and undergo 30-hours of intensive training before being paired with abused/neglected children. It costs CASA $1,200 per person to recruit and train one CASA volunteer. Volunteers are the faces of CASA in Family Court, schools, social service agencies and in the community.
CASA’s project -- Becoming a Model of Volunteer Service – will increase volunteer recruitment and retention by certifying 10 staff in volunteer management. CASA staff (particularly the Director of Volunteer Support, Director of Advocacy and Advocacy Supervisors) interact with volunteers daily. The experience of a CASA volunteer must be exceptional so they will serve not only through the entirety of their first case (an average of 3.4 years) but will remain active and accept a second case. CASA currently has a 77% volunteer retention rate. Our goal is for 85% volunteer retention. To meet this goal, staff must be trained in effective methods of recruitment and relationship building/rapport.
Volunteer Administration Certification Training will provide CASA the foundation for developing an effective volunteer management plan that focuses on the volunteer management lifecycle, including the process for planning, recruiting, training, scheduling, supervising, developing and soliciting feedback from volunteers.
CASA volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization as they provide the direct support to the abused/neglected children we serve. It is imperative that staff, first, recognize volunteers’ unique skills and abilities so volunteers are paired with appropriate cases. And, second, that staff know how to provide ongoing support tailored to the unique needs of each volunteer.
During these unprecedented times surrounding COVID-19, CASA staff/volunteer relationships are more crucial than ever. It is imperative that staff have the specialized training needed not only to recruit, train and support volunteers, but to develop and build long-lasting relationships.
Improving our volunteer management skills and process will increase CASA volunteers’ engagement and improve retention skills. These outcomes will support CASA in fulfilling its mission.
Certification training will include:
• Effective techniques of introduction, recruitment and follow-up communications with prospective volunteers;
• Strategies to build rapport and communicate effectively with CASA volunteers;
• Best practices (email, phone, in-person meetings, written correspondence and social media) for effective communication with CASA volunteers.
Benefits of volunteer administration training will include:
• Increased volunteer acquisition: Additional volunteers will be available to serve children waiting.
• Improved communication between CASA and prospects/volunteers: Enhanced interaction will ensure children are receiving timely and appropriate services.
• Improved volunteer satisfaction: Volunteers will develop confidence resulting in expanded advocacy services for children.
• Increased retention rates: Experienced volunteers will be paired with children, particularly the more challenging cases, resulting in better outcomes.
These results help ensure CASA volunteers remain active and take on additional cases (after completing their first case). This will make CASA’s initial training more cost effective, and, more importantly, it will provide experienced advocates to represent our CASA children in Family Court and other settings. Improving volunteer management will directly impact the overall effectiveness and efficiency of CASA’s work and improve children’s outcomes.
Our 238 CASA volunteers averaged 4 hours per week in 2019. The current value of a volunteer hour is $25.43. This equates to $1,258,886.72 in volunteer advocacy services that were provided at no charge to abused/neglected children.
CASA’s goal is to provide quality professional development training that will result in competent, passionate staff who effectively manage and engage volunteers. CASA provides a valuable and cost-effective service to the community and to children in crisis. This project will ensure that staff is equipped to provide exceptional services and noteworthy results.
Kentucky Social Welfare Foundation funds will be used to provide Volunteer Administration Certification Training ($350/each) for 10 CASA staff. Training is dependent upon when the Volunteer Administration Certification Training classes are available but would be within one year of receipt of Kentucky Social Welfare Foundation funds
The following demographics represent the 619 children paired with a CASA volunteer in 2019 in the six counties CASA of the River Region serves: Jefferson (78%), Oldham (7%), Shelby (6%), Spencer (1%), Trimble (6%) and Henry (2%).
CASA children were: 59% White; 28% African American/Black; 11% Two or more races and 2% Other. Ages served: Infants (0-2 yrs) – 14%; preschool (3-5 yrs) – 17%; grade school (6-11 yrs) – 36%; teenage (12-18 yrs) – 33%.
All CASA children have experienced abuse and/or neglect and have experienced one or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Approximately half of the children CASA serves have spent extended lengths of time in out-of-home care (including foster/kin care or residential/group care) and have endured multiple placements in a relatively short period of time. 73% of CASA children were from families that are at or below the 130% poverty level. These maltreated children suffer from emotional problems and post-traumatic stress disorder. They are also at risk for impaired social, cognitive, & physiological functioning, which adversely affects every area of their lives.
10 full-time and 2 part-time staff.
238 volunteers (CASAs).
Goal: Increase Number of Trained Volunteers
Objective: To train 65 new volunteers
Goal: Increase Number of Children Served
Objective: To serve a total of 656 children.
Goal: Diversify volunteer base
Objective: To increase awareness and engage specific communities in volunteer advocacy–faith, African-American, Latino, young professionals, and men.
CASA makes a life-changing difference for children who have experienced abuse and/or neglect. CASA volunteers become a voice for child victims in Family Court, school and with social service agencies. The children live in unsafe homes that failed to provide adequate food, clothing, healthcare or supervision. Many have endured physical/sexual abuse. 73% are from low-income families. 94% of these cases are from families with substance use disorders.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events such as experiencing violence, abuse/neglect; witnessing violence in the home; and having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding such as growing up in a household with substance misuse, mental health problems, or instability due to parental separation or incarceration of a parent, sibling, or other household member. ACEs have been linked to chronic health conditions, risky health behaviors, low life potential and early death. As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for these outcomes. A survey of CASA cases (completed September 2019) indicated that the children CASA served had an average ACES Score of 5.2, which is considered to be extremely high. Scores above 6 have been tied to chronic health conditions and reduce life expectancy by 20 years.
Approximately half of CASA children have spent extended lengths of time in foster/kin care or residential/group care and have endured multiple placements in a relatively short period of time resulting in emotional and physical instability.
CASA ensures that the most vulnerable children in our community have a committed adult to advocate for their overall well-being. Specific professional training in volunteer administration will ensure optimal interaction with and use of volunteers and will increase professional credibility of staff.
COVID-19 has created a perfect storm of factors leading to a sharp increase in unreported cases of child abuse/neglect. Children are cut off from interactions with professionals and teachers, confined at home with caregivers and relatives, and families are feeling the stress of job loss and economic uncertainty.
In Kentucky, there was a 50% decrease in reported abuse/neglect cases during the shelter-at-home orders. Nationally, the sexual abuse hotline received 4 times the number of reports from victims living with their perpetrators. With courts reopening, CASA. is preparing for a surge in abuse/neglect reports and must replace CASAs who have become inactive due to virus concerns. No other agency provides free advocacy services to abused/neglected children.
Social distancing restrictions have drastically changed staff/volunteer interactions requiring CASA to modify and enhance its volunteer management process.
CASA’s work is directly aligned with the purpose of the Kentucky Social Welfare Foundation.
The need for this certification project is based upon the importance of increasing volunteer retention, and discussion with staff, Board of Directors and volunteers. CASA must reach and recruit a diversified pool of prospects and once trained, staff must build stable, professional, long-lasting relationships with our volunteers.
Kentucky’s rate of child abuse/neglect is currently the worst in the nation (U.S. Department for Health and Human Services’ most recent annual report). And to make this situation worse, an article in the Courier-Journal reported: “The state’s target is 18 cases per worker. Social workers told the Courier Journal it’s not unusual to have 100 or more cases, particularly in Jefferson County, which has the heaviest workload.”
CASA volunteers handle only one or two cases at a time. This allows them to get to know the child and the circumstances and give each child’s case the sustained, personal attention required. These safe, stable and nurturing relationships can have a positive impact on the development of abused/neglected children.
CASA is the only volunteer organization allowed in the Family Court Room and appointed by a judge. This collaboration (courts, child welfare and CASA) is unique in youth development. When a CASA volunteer’s recommendations are accepted, they are mandated by the Court until the case is closed. Volunteers have access to their children’s case files and to public school records. CASA’s advocacy services are free of charge.
Outcomes will be measured by:
- Retention (Goal of increasing by 10%)
- Survey of volunteers (Written evaluation will be conducted one year after training)
- Staff evaluation (Evaluation will be part of annual review)
- Number of trainings/certifications completed
CASA has successfully met its budget every year since it began operating in 1984. CASA has expanded its base of funding steadily with the dedication and commitment from its Board of Directors. Annual operations are funded through grants (64%), special events (6%) and individual contributions (30%).
CASA trains and pairs volunteers with abused and neglected children at no cost. CASA volunteers are not paid for their services.
November 16, 2016 - $7,500 - Life Skills Academy
Provided training to develop skills in self-sufficiency—financial literacy, job readiness/career planning, and, relationship building/community connections. (April & October 2017)
The initial pilot program resulted in a:
• 500% increase of participants who answered yes in understanding aspects of financial literacy
• 111% increase in participants who answered yes to understanding job readiness
• 12.5% increase in participants who answered yes to understanding healthy relationships