BERLIN – With a growing
and diverse population in Worcester County has come an increase in the number
of children needing a support system, and a huge part of the local safety net is
holding one of its bigger fundraising events of the year this weekend to help
meet the demand for services.
The Lower Shore
Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program, a branch of Worcester Youth
and Family Counseling Services, is asking for the community’s support in the
effort to “Help Sink Child Abuse” with a pirate-themed party on Friday, May 14
at Sunset Grille from 6-10 p.m. The local CASA program is relying on the second
annual pirate party to help raise funds from the private sector in the face of
more and more budget cuts.
“Now more than ever,
with pending budget cuts, we need to make sure the needs of the children in our
community are met,” said Caroyln Cordial. “That’s what CASA does and this event
is a huge fundraising opportunity for us.”
Neglected, abused and
otherwise troubled children in Worcester who find themselves snared in the web
of the complex legal system for a variety of reasons have a neutral friend in
the local CASA program. The volunteer-driven, non-profit program provides a
network of private citizen volunteers to look out for the interests of troubled
children caught in the web of the judicial, educational and social services
As of March 2010,
Worcester County had 112 children in the social welfare system because they
could no longer live safely in their own homes due to sexual abuse, physical
abuse or neglect. Over the course of a year, those children are often moved to
multiple foster homes, schools and communities.
Things taken for
granted, such as sleeping in the same bed every night, are things these
children simply don’t have. In an overburdened social welfare system, many of
the children victimized by abuse and neglect often slip through the cracks, but
the CASA program provides a safety net of sorts.
Children helped by CASA
volunteers often include those whose placement is being determined by juvenile
court and most are victims of abuse and neglect. CASA volunteers carefully
research the background of the child whose case they have been assigned,
interviewing parents, teachers, social workers, attorneys, doctors and anyone
else who touches the child’s life to help the court system make a more informed
decision about the child’s future.
CASA volunteers stick
with one child to make sure their needs are met for everything from speaking to
a teacher about grades to attending the child’s sporting events. A child’s CASA
volunteer is often the only constant in their lives and the program has proven
to be extremely effective. For example, less than 10 percent of children who
have had a CASA volunteer return to the foster care system.
The local CASA program
is constantly seeking more volunteers to meet the demand for its services, but
with funding and grants more and more difficult to come by in the current
economy, the program relies heavily on its own fundraising efforts. To that
end, the local CASA program is holding one of its more popular fundraising
events tomorrow at Sunset Grille in West Ocean City with the “Help Sink Child
Abuse” pirate-themed party.
The suggested donation
of $10 included live music with popular local group Full Circle, complimentary
appetizers, special drink prices, fortunetellers, a 50/50 raffle, silent
auction and treasure hunt. During the event, several local “pirate outlaws”
will be arrested, placed in handcuffs and led off to a floating brig on the
docks of Sunset Marina and the only way off the brig is to raise enough money
for the CASA program to buy their freedom.
Lower Shore CASA is just
one of the programs offered by Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services.
For more information, call 410-641-4598.