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CASA Volunteers Help Abused, Neglected Kids Find Themselves

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The numbers are staggering. Every day across the country, nearly 2,000 children become victims of abuse or neglect.

But there’s a group of volunteers who stay with children until they are placed in loving permanent homes. They call themselves CASA — Court-Appointed Special Advocates.

Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers are guardians ad litem appointed by the court to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children during court proceedings.

“In the last year there were almost 500 volunteer guardians serving close to 1,800 children,” said CASA volunteer Mariann Grossman.

Darryl Douglas has been in the court system since he was 4 years old.

Mark West is the one constant through all of Darryl’s court proceedings. Lawyers may change, foster parents may change, doctors even get changed out, but West is always there to listen to what Douglas needs.

“We advocate for kids who have been abused and neglected,” said West.

Volunteers go through 40 hours of training and make an 18 month commitment to become an officer of the court.

“Because of the number of children coming through Hennepin and Ramsey County, there’s no way they have the budget for that,” Grossman said.

Both Mark and Darryl get more out of the relationship than just time together in a courtroom.

“When I first met Darryl he was a shy kind of guy, really didn’t talk too much,” West said. “Since we’ve been together, he’s opened up. It’s amazing how he has grown.”

These are strides that may not have happened without the CASA program.

“I’d probably still be trying to figure out what to do, where to go,” Douglas said. “I’m very grateful for that help.”

On Friday, you can help CASA raise funds. WCCO’s Nina Moini will emcee the Corks for CASA event at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church. Tickets are $30 per person for a wine tasting, apps and dessert, or $50 per couple.

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