Regardless of the hand you’re dealt at the CASA of Sedgwick County CASAino event, CASA-supported kids will take the table April 22. Proceeds from the event, 7-11 p.m. at the Abode Venue, will support the organization’s efforts to provide trained advocates for foster children moving through the court system.
“Our volunteers are out-of-the-box thinkers who help protect the basic rights and needs of kids in foster care,” says Ashley Thorne, MSCJ, executive director of CASA. “Basic things that everyday citizens have — access to help, resources, medical services — can be a challenge for those suffering from abuse and neglect.”
Not to mention the challenges of navigating the foster care system and the confusing, often scary, court process.
“Our advocates listen to the child and have the right to advocate in any arena for the child — medical, legal, housing — to produce recommendations and present concerns to the judge (overseeing the case),” Thorne says, adding that volunteers don’t have to be social workers or have a legal background to support kids in need. “We train them in what they need to know.”
CASA (court appointed special advocates) volunteers go through 30 hours of training to become certified by the Supreme Court of Kansas to be the voice for children at risk of slipping through the cracks of an overburdened and overworked system.
In the Wichita area alone, there are 1,200 kids, on average, in foster care. Currently, there are 77 CASA volunteers serving 131 kids — a fraction of CASA’s goal to meet the need of every child by 2020. To increase the number of children served, Thorne says CASA needs to recruit and train more volunteers.
“We are only meeting 6 to 8 percent of the need,” Thorne admits. “We need more volunteers and funding. CASA is not county, city or state funded. We are a stand-alone, 501c3 organization.”
Thorne says the CASAino yearly fundraiser is a key part of CASA’s support and enables its continued work on behalf of children in the Wichita area.
“It’s the one night of the year that we really celebrate what we’re doing,” she says. “We’ll have casino game tables, live jazz music, live and silent auction items, complimentary beer and wine, along with a cash bar and a cigar bar. It’s a high energy, fun night to help fund and celebrate our efforts.”
“We want every child who has been abused or neglected to thrive and not allow it to define who they are,” Thorne continues, pointing out that CASA can help break the cycle of crime and poverty that is often perpetuated when foster kids age out of the system without support or guidance.
All is takes is someone to care.
“In our cases, they have no one — neighbors or relatives — who can step in for them,” she says. “CASA becomes that somebody.”
April 22 | 7-11 p.m.
1330 E. Douglas Ave.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit casaofsedgwickcounty.org.