Macon County’s Children Need You.
January 30, 2023
As of this moment, there are 354 children in the foster system in Macon County in need of an advocate. Macon County’s CASA, court-appointed child advocates, is a non-profit organization with the goal of reducing that number to zero. CASA is a nationwide organization, with 770 program sites around the country. The state of Illinois has thirty-one local programs covering fifty-five counties in the state.
Macon County is a community in need, especially its children. The foster system in Macon County is overflowing: Macon County takes second place for the highest rate of children in foster care per capita in the state. CASA provides support for children involved in the juvenile court system. The organization adds one more person looking out for a child in a system that makes it easy for them to slip through the cracks. CASA provides stability for the child, and someone actively keeping up with and advocating for them, whether that be legally, medically, educationally, or personally.
Julia Roundtree Livingston, Macon County CASA’s Executive Director, has a small staff of fifteen who recruit and train volunteers before appointing them to a family/child. The staff is made up of child welfare professionals. Each staff member supervises around thirty volunteers.
The training process is intense. Before someone is even approved, they first go through a thorough round of interviews to determine whether they would be a good fit for the organization. These interviews consist of unpacking the volunteers’ own trauma to decide if they would be a good candidate. The staff does background searches of the candidates to ensure the safety of the child. Once a volunteer has been approved, they go through a thirty-hour pre-service training, preparing them for the challenges that may arise when dealing with the foster system. CASA offers continued education sessions once a month for volunteers who wish to remain as informed as possible. CASA’s volunteers are critical to the organization: there are currently over 200 volunteers, compared to the approximately 630 foster kids in Macon County.
“On average in Macon County, those kids are staying in foster care for two whole years. And during that time, you can imagine there’s a lot of inconsistency and lots of change in their life,” said Livingston.
The overall goal is to set up the child in a permanent home, hopefully reuniting them with their parents after the family has been rehabilitated, although this does not always end up being the case. After a candidate passes the screening process, he or she is assigned to a child, or sometimes siblings. The volunteer visits the child at least once a month, although most see them more often than that.
The organization is even involved in the legal process and decision making. Throughout their time with the child, volunteers take notes of what they see. The volunteer spends time around children and their families, giving them a clear insight on the child’s life and needs. The volunteer learns how to submit reports to the juvenile advocacy judge, noting progress or challenges with which the families and children are faced.
Volunteering for CASA is a major commitment: the volunteer is sworn in and must stay with the child’s case until they are reunited with their parents, adopted, or outgrow the foster system. As volunteering may not be for everyone, another option is donating, which can be done through their website maconcountycasa.org. If you believe volunteering is for you, you can also fill out an application on their website and mail it to their offices in downtown Decatur.