United Way for Dawson County kicked off its annual fundraising campaign in September with plans to collect more than $100,000 for area social service organization partners. This is the fifth in a series of articles highlighting success stories from local agencies that receive assistance from United Way for Dawson County.
The United Way for Dawson County selected Hall-Dawson CASA as one of the non-profit organizations that it donated funding to in 2008.
“United Way is impacting the lives of children who have been abused or neglected. They are truly making a difference in our community,” said Connie Stephens, executive director of Hall-Dawson CASA.
A CASA worker is a volunteer appointed by the court to work on behalf of children who have experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment. CASA workers investigate such cases, attend all court hearings and make independent recommendations for their clients.
“Without CASA, the children going through court proceedings wouldn’t have a safe, stable advocate to assist them through the process,” said Lindsay Bohannon, office administrator for United Way for Dawson County. “These kids go through enough as it is. The least we can do is ensure they have a person they can trust to stand up for them.”
United Way’s funding goes toward the costs of a staff position for CASA, in which the individual will train, supervise and support CASA volunteers, as well as attend all court proceedings involving abused or neglected children.
The Hall-Dawson CASA Program was formed in 1989 and was one of the first programs in Georgia. It provides trained, screened and supervised CASA volunteers in Dawson County to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in cases requiring court intervention. Federal law and the Georgia Code require a trained CASA volunteer, or an attorney, to represent abused children in court.
CASA workers evaluate children’s health, emotional and mental state, and whether or not the parents are capable of raising their children. CASA volunteers first work to keep families together and to help parents put their lives back together so they can keep their children. But their first priority is the safety and well being of the children clients.
“We are truly working to make a difference in the lives of our community’s most vulnerable children. Our work prevents any further abuse or neglect and provides children safe and loving homes. No child deserves any less,” said Stephens.
The CASA program is operated by an executive director, three volunteer supervisors and one advocacy coordinator.
The Board of Directors for the Hall-Dawson CASA program play an integral role in the growth and development of the program. These individuals assist with areas of program management, fundraising and public relations.
Hall-Dawson CASA has served over 2,000 children since 1989. The director was chosen as the National Director of the Year and one of CASA’s volunteers became Georgia CASA of the Year.
CASA also joined forces with the Edmondson-Telford Center to build a new home in Gainesville in order to more effectively serve abused and neglected children in the community. The goal is to centralize these two agencies for children and families. The new facility, named “The Little House For Children” is expected to cost $1.2 million.
CASA is affiliated with National and state CASA Organizations endorsed by the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Council of Juvenile Court Judges, National Bar Association, State Bar of Georgia and the Supreme Court of Georgia Child Placement Projects.