There are over 1,200 cases of abused and neglected children in Utah County every year. Y-Serve’s new program, CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, works alongside these kids to help improve their lives.
These children, after suffering difficult home lives, are taken and placed in the custody of a different guardian with hope that their situation will improve. Right now, there are only four lawyers assigned to these 1,200 cases, making it difficult for each child to receive the attention they need in order to improve. This is where CASA comes into play.
The mission statement for CASA is, “To support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that every abused or neglected child can be safe, establish permanence and have the opportunity to thrive.”
CASA volunteers are each assigned a specific case. Volunteers meet the child, maintain a friendship with them and observe the situation and see if the child is happy and improving.
Ryan Lew, a neuroscience major and one of the CASA program directors, talked about the opportunities CASA provides to both volunteers and the kids affected.
“CASA is a unique opportunity to work with children in need,” Lew said. “We as volunteers can make a difference in the lives of these children who have been placed in precarious situations. We can provide stability and consistency in their lives through our friendship and interest to seek solutions to their needs.”
The program directors of CASA were influential in making it a part of Y-Serve. Doug Wall, a public health major from Centerville, and one of the program directors for CASA, talked about their reasons behind bringing CASA to BYU.
“Upon learning more about the program, we found that there were about 1,200 children in Utah County in the program, and only four lawyers to oversee them,” Wall said. “Because of this need we decided to start the CASA program at BYU in order to recruit more students to assist the lawyers to advocate for and mentor the children.”
With the help of BYU student volunteers, the suffering childrens’ needs are met and students are provided with an opportunity to serve.
Allen Barnett, another program director for CASA, said he has had a positive experience in CASA.
“The best part of participating in CASA is that I was able to make a real difference in someone’s life,” Barnett said. “You can do the same thing, you don’t need to be anything special. You just need to be willing to sacrifice some of your time. If you do, you could change a kid’s life.”