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Wisconsin CASA programs help 935 children in 2020

Wisconsin Court Appointed Special Advocate programs helped 935 children in 2020, according to a report sent to the Joint Committee on Finance this week.

CASA advocates are volunteers who work with the legal and child-welfare system to ensure children under CHIPS orders are safe while they’re involved in the legal process. CASA programs are paid for by the state.

Susan Schwartz, state director of the Wisconsin CASA Association, submitted a report to the JFC on Monday detailing the organization’s work in 2020. The report said nine CASA programs served 935 children in 12 counties in 2020. Schwartz said this was a 6.5% decrease from 2019 because of the pandemic, but a 30% increase from 2017.

Increased funding from Assembly Bill 786 allowed the association to establish its ninth local program in Barron County in 2020. Schwartz said the organization is on track to establish programs in Sheboygan, St. Croix and Marathon counties, and with the Lac Courte Oreilles tribe, also as a result of the bill’s funding.

The report said CASA used about one-third of its $250,000 allocation from the 2019-21 budget to grow local programs. Additional money was used for training, state office overhead, statewide awareness campaigns and travel.

CASA advocacy costs about $1,400 for each child, but a child served by CASA spends about one month less time in foster care, according to the report. CASA translated that time into a $2,500-per-child cost savings at the county level and $1.8 million of total savings in 2020.

Schwartz said children who have a CASA advocate are safer, less likely to re-enter foster care, spend less time in foster care, improve academically and are more resilient.

“The funding Wisconsin CASA has already received has been incredibly helpful in moving the needle on caring for Wisconsin’s abused children,” Schwartz said. “We respectfully ask for your continued financial support to move it even faster.”

Schwartz said there are more than 6,000 children statewide waiting for quality advocacy. Sixty of Wisconsin’s 72 counties are not served by a CASA program.

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