Missouri CASA Budget Increase

I am John Viviano, co-founder and partner of Evidentia Learning, an active CASA volunteer, and board member of my local CASA organization. If Evidentia Learning is about serving vulnerable children at scale, my volunteer work as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is about serving children one-on-one.  I am just one of more than 125 CASA volunteers serve more than 400 children in our community. Funded entirely from grants and private contributions, I can think of few organizations that make such a difference with so few resources. 

I'm pleased to share in this press release that the state of Missouri has approved a meaningful budget increase that will help fund our existing program, as well as allow us to expand our services to a third Missouri county and its children.  

Let’s build strong communities together by protecting our most vulnerable citizens: children who have experienced abuse or neglect. 
Dateline: [Jefferson City, MO, JULY 2022] — The Missouri Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (MOCASA) was thrilled to learn that its recent proposed budget increase had passed through the House, Senate, and the Governor’s Office on June 30. “We are incredibly grateful that the Governor and Legislature approved increased resources to accelerate the growth of CASA advocacy in Missouri.  This funding will help boost our efforts to expand to new areas of the state and serve more children in foster care,” stated Leanne Reese, the Executive Director of MOCASA. 
MOCASA proposed the increase as a means to bolster volunteer advocacy for children who have experienced abuse and neglect throughout the state. These moneys will be used to start new CASA® programs in Missouri and increase the service capacity of its current twenty-four local CASA programs. 
CASA programs in Missouri engage community volunteers to provide best-interest advocacy for children in foster care, who have experienced abuse or neglect. This involves visiting the children and learning about their lives and placement, engaging with caregivers and other community members to best understand the child’s case, collaborating with other members of the child’s Family Support Team, and by making recommendations on behalf of the child in a court report that is submitted to the Juvenile Court Judge. Children with a CASA volunteer are historically more likely to receive needed services, do better in school, and are less likely to re-enter the foster care system at a later date. 
At the end of the day, CASA volunteers provide much-needed consistency for a child or older youth in the foster care system. Their lives can be fraught with past traumas, fear, anger, and turbulence. CASA volunteers provide a voice for these children; they provide agency and hope. 
None of this is possible without supporters throughout the state. This is why we sincerely thank Governor Parson and the Missouri Legislature for their consideration and decision to increase our state appropriation. MOCASA passes through much of this funding as grants for new and existing CASA programs. CASA programs utilize these funds with an effective model: one paid staff member can engage and support up to thirty community volunteers, who often advocate for as many as sixty children. 
MOCASA has continued to expand its service area over the past several years, starting new programs in Joplin, Farmington, and New Madrid. We have been fortunate to have community members interested in this important work, who have hit the ground running to make CASA a reality throughout Missouri. Growth and expansion are hard work and take time and dedication. The ultimate goal is to provide CASA volunteers for every child who has experienced abuse or neglect.  
The budget increase is timely, as instances of child abuse and neglect in the state remain high. At any given time, there are around 14,000 children in foster care in Missouri, with an annual cumulative number of around 20,000 children (Children’s Division Annual Report – 2021). CASA programs in the state work hard to serve as many of these children as possible, but the need is great. Our local programs need more volunteers to provide advocacy for children in foster care. We currently only have the capacity to serve around 30% of the children in care at any given time. 
As MOCASA thanks its statewide supporters, it also asks for your help in this time of great need. By donating a few hours each week, or by making a financial gift, you can provide a child or older youth in foster care a needed voice and provide consistency to that child during this time of stress and trauma in their lives. Let’s build strong communities together by protecting our most vulnerable citizens: children who have experienced abuse or neglect. Find your local CASA program today and be a voice for a child: mocasa.org/volunteer. 
In 2021, CASA programs around the state served over 5,000 abused and neglected children with over 2,000 volunteer advocates and staff, but programs still need your help. To learn more or to volunteer with a local CASA program, visit mocasa.org/volunteer. 
Franklin County CASA 
80A North Oak St, Union, MO 63084