COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- In response to the rise in cases involving child neglect, the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Pikes Peak Region has appointed more than a dozen new volunteers to the agency.
According to a spokeswoman with CASA, the isolating effects of COVID have nearly doubled, if not tripled, the number of children who have entered the court system after reports of abuse.
“There are hundreds of kids who are waiting for a CASA volunteer,” Keri Kahn with Pikes Peak CASA said.
To handle the rise in cases involving child neglect, CASA recently appointed 15 new volunteers to the agency - bringing the total to roughly 300.
While that may sound like a lot, CASA told KRDO they are always accepting more applicants to go through the 30-hour training, which takes about five weeks to complete.
“We are still seeing higher numbers even though it has been almost two years we are seeing higher numbers than before the pandemic so the need for CASA volunteers is still huge," she said.
After being appointed by a judge, a CASA volunteer can act as a mentor, friend, and watchdog for the child while they remain in the court system until the child can be placed into a safe, loving home.
According to data from the Colorado Department of Human Services, CASA had 15,069 child abuse referrals in El Paso County in 2020. From Teller County, CASA received 518 referrals in 2020.
Another hurdle facing the agency - at least half of the total cases involving child neglect involve male victims, but finding male advocates to go through the CASA training has been tough.
“These boys haven’t exactly had a positive healthy trustworthy male role model in their lives," Kahn said. "So if we can get more male volunteers they can show them what it looks like to be a safe responsible male when they grow up.”
According to the Colorado Child Welfare Workload Study released in 2014, it cites that El Paso County, at the time, had the highest need for child caseworkers through the Department of Human Services.
Fast forward seven years later and not much has changed.
“The things that cause a parent or a caregiver to abuse or neglect children is still there…and it's higher now than it was before,” Kahn said.
For more information on CASA, click here.