CASA serves record number 1,000 children in Jackson County - KCTV5

CASA serves record number 1,000 children in Jackson County this year

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Abuse and neglect cases involving children have exploded in Jackson County this year and one local group who is there to help the victims explains what could be behind the spike.

"Working with abused and neglected kids has always been my passion since a teenager," said Amber Simpson.

During the week, Simpson is a business analyst. But during her spare time, she pours over case files and does her part to make sure hurting children in Jackson County can escape an unsafe environment.

"The most heart-wrenching part of it is seeing the innocent kids out there that are in the court systems when they don't have a voice. So, as a CASA volunteer, that's what I am here for, to give them a voice with the courts," she said.

Simpson is just one of 300 volunteers who are Court Appointed Special Advocates known as CASA. They interview all parties to help the courts decide the best outcome for a child in a bad situation.

"That might mean they were raped, hit or beaten, it might mean that their parents are mentally ill, poor, drug addicted or can't get a meal on the table," said Martha Gershun, the executive director of CASA.

Gershun says this year, for the first time in its 30-year history, CASA served a record-number 1,000 children in Jackson County, compared to 700 children five years ago. She believes the growth is close tied to the economy.

"There is no money for a babysitter, there might not be money for food, there isn't money for mental health counseling for a parent. That's when families get into trouble. It's that economic stress that causes a woman to stay with a man who's abusing her and her children. Because he's paying the rent," she said.

Although CASA helped 1,000 children in Jackson County, they say there are more than 700 other children on a waiting list, hoping for a caring CASA volunteer like Simpson who will do everything to get them out of their desperate situation.

"The reward is just helping out the kids. I mean what better reward is that? To know that you're helping someone less fortunate who doesn't have a voice and you're able to do that for them," Simpson said.

Studies show that children who have a CASA volunteer are half as likely to be re-abused or re-enter the court system, so having the volunteer by their side makes a big difference for the victims.

Go to casakc.org to find out more about how to become a CASA volunteer.

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