County advocacy group seeking aid from city to help kids in need

A program working to protect abused and neglected children in Jackson County is in need of more money to keep up with its growing caseload.

Representatives from Jackson County’s Guardian Ad Litem/Court Appointed Special Advocate program recently spoke to the Seymour City Council about their work and requested the city help provide funding for 2018.

Deena Personett, program director for Jackson County GAL/CASA, and Kate Garrity, executive director of Child Care Network, said the program is facing a $30,000 deficit in its budget for next year. Child Care Network serves as an umbrella agency that oversees GAL/CASA.

“With programs like this, it’s unfortunate but a necessary program for our community,” Garrity said. “We’re trying to be creative and brainstorm different ways we can get additional funding to bridge that gap. We appreciate any support (city council) may be able to give.”

Although those who serve as court-appointed special advocates are volunteers, the program requires funding for training and staff to ensure children remain at the forefront of court proceedings. The goal is to find safe, permanent housing for children as quickly as possible, Personett said.

From a funding standpoint, Garrity said the program is “asked to do more and more each year.”

“There are more children. We’ve almost hit our numbers for 2016 in 2017, and we’re just a little over halfway through the year,” she said.

The program has been in Jackson County since 1990 when it was part of Court Appointed Special Advocates of South Central Indiana.

“In 2011, we had 74 children who were new victims of abuse and neglect,” Personett said. “Today, I added our 100th new child for the year, so right now on our caseload, we have almost 220 children.”

Primary funding for the program, which is mandated by the courts, comes from the Jackson County Council and the Indiana Supreme Court with additional grants, donations and fundraisers. Garrity said even though the number of children being served has increased, funding has not.

Most of GAL/CASA’s clients, 81 percent, live in Seymour, Personett said.

“From Jan. 1 to Aug. 31 of this year, our program has served 232 children who are residents of Seymour,” she said.

A total of 90 percent of those kids come from families with parents who suffer from substance abuse, most commonly heroin or methamphetamine.

“We have numerous drug-exposed infants,” she said. “This is so new we don’t really know how they will grow into adults because it’s undocumented. It’s being documented now.”

Council President Jim Rebber said he would share the information and the request with Mayor Craig Luedeman when he returned from his business trip to Japan.

Councilman Shawn Malone thanked the agency for the work it does.

“Thank you for giving our children a voice,” he said.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.