East-Central CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) County believes every child who's been abused or neglected deserves to have a dedicated advocate speaking up for their best interest in court, at school and in our community. To accomplish this, CASA educates and empowers diverse community volunteers who ensure each child's needs remain a priority in an over-burdened child welfare system. When the state steps in to protect a child's safety because the people responsible for protecting them have not, a judge appoints a trained CASA volunteer to make independent and informed recommendations and help the judge decide what's best for the child. CASA is the only child advocacy group working in the court system that provides a caring, consistent adult focused on the well-being of a single child.
For children who've been abused or neglected, CASA means having a home instead of feeling lost, and being a priority instead of feeling invisible. For volunteers, CASA is a life-changing experience that makes our community a better place.
CASA volunteers come from every walk of life and share a commitment to improving children's lives, a willingness to learn, and an open mind towards life experiences different from their own. Volunteers complete an interview, background checks and 30 hours of intensive training. After being sworn-in by a judge, volunteers are appointed to a child or family of children and spend an average of 15-20 hours a month advocating for these children. They get to know the child while also gathering information from the child's family, teachers, doctors, care-givers and anyone else involved in the child's life. Judges highly value CASA's recommendations which help them make informed decisions in the child's best interest.
East-Central CASA was established in 2002 by concerned citizens, child welfare professionals, and court personnel in response to concerns that the rights and needs of abused and neglected children were not being met. Presiding Judge Rodney Steele signed the Memorandum of Understanding between the Court and E-C CASA.
The program began with a director and two volunteers who served six children. CASA volunteers are now appointed to all abuse and neglect cases in five counties of the Third Judicial Circuit (Brookings, Lake, Minor, Moody, Kingsbury and the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe). Today there are 30 CASA volunteers, 2 staff members and seven members of the Board of Directors who have supported and represented the best interests of over 450 abused and neglected children within the Third Judicial Circuit Court system.