CASA of Gratiot County is a program of Child Advocacy that looks out for the best interests of abused and neglected children as they make their way through the family court system. CASA accomplishes this by recruiting, screening, and training volunteer advocates to speak on behalf of children in Gratiot County. CASA volunteers are everyday citizens who are empowered to become a voice for abused and/or neglected children in our community. Learn More Here!
The mission of CASA of Gratiot County is to provide advocacy for neglected, abused, and at-risk children in the Family Division of the 29th Judicial Circuit Court, promote the best interest of the child, and establish safety and permanency for all children. CASA of Gratiot County is committed to work, in the court system, through screened, trained and dedicated volunteers in collaboration with key agencies, legal counsel and community resources.
In 2006, community leaders from Gratiot County Juvenile Court, Gratiot County Department of Health and Human Services, and concerned citizens convened for the first time to create a CASA Program in Gratiot County. In 2007, the CASA of Gratiot County Advisory Board formed, and it secured a Program Coordinator. By 2008, the first volunteer was assigned to a case. In 2019 alone more than 40 children’s voices were heard through the advocacy of the Gratiot County CASA Program. In 2019, volunteers logged over 2,500 hours of service to children in Gratiot County.
Court Appointed Special Advocates work in partnerships with attorneys, service providers, and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) workers as specially appointed officers of the court. They maintain confidentiality as a trusted source of crucial information. They research the case, asses the facts, identify key problems, and submit court reports every 60-90 days to the court. Our volunteers attend court hearings, provide insight to the judge and provide recommendations in the best interest of the child. Our volunteers represent one case at a time, whether it has one child or in some cases, a group of siblings.
Since its creation by the family court judge in Seattle, Court Appointed Special Advocates has become one of the most effective programs of its kind. Children who are appointed a CASA volunteer are:
Through Telling Their Stories, CASA of Gratiot County partners with the Children’s Advocacy Center, and the Gratiot County Substance Abuse and Suicide Prevention Coalition. Children who are being served by CASA, paint canvases to express their feelings and share their experience. Each child’s canvas sends a powerful message about the effects of abuse and neglect. Painting can encourage the expression of traumatic events and assist the child with telling their story. They are able to speak out and be heard. This is their moment to tell you how they feel. These canvases are displayed for the community to view their artwork in the springtime.
Starting in 2019, Children who are being served by CASA, create a vegetable, fruit, and flower garden through Planting Hope for Children. This garden provides an opportunity for volunteers to connect with their CASA children, get them outside, and allow them to discuss their feelings and thoughts. This sensory garden enhances visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile stimulation. Gardening has a history of being therapeutic by creating a potential opportunity for healing from experienced trauma. It allows children to find significance in something. CASA of Gratiot County was gracious to receive support from the community for this project by the Gratiot County Community Foundation, Green Side Up LLC, Bonnie Plants, Alma True Value Hardware, Linda Bader of the St. Louis Farmer’s Market, and MSU Extension-Gardening Project.