A group of children’s advocates will have its first fundraiser next weekend.

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Vermilion County began in July 2007 with grant money, but now the group seeks donations to continue the program.

To that end, the group will have a hog roast Oct. 4 at Kennekuk County Park.

Eighteen trained advocates are part of the Vermilion County program.

“It certainly is a program the community needs,” said Jane Dobbles, vice president of the CASA board of directors.

“Any moment, (there are) some 320 children who are wards of the juvenile court system who’ve been victims of neglect or abuse. We advocate for these kids.”

Advocates are assigned a child or group of siblings who are wards of the system. The advocate meets with the child or children at least once a month to make sure they have resources they need — which can be counseling, mentoring, after-school programs or even medical care.

Advocates work closely with other people in the child’s lives, including case workers, parents, teachers or anyone else close to them.

The children could have been removed from their homes for a variety of reasons that could include drug abuse, bad relationships or abandonment on the part of the parents.

“Families under stress can take out their frustrations on their children,” Dobbles said.

“If you can deal with the causes of the stress, it can make a lasting change in the children’s lives.”

Children could be returned to their original homes or find a new home where they’ll be safe and cared for, she added.

“(Advocates) find out how things are going and what (the kids) want to have happen. They want to make sure the child’s voice is heard in court,” Dobbles said.

Some of the children could be living with their parents under court supervision; others might be living with relatives serving as foster parents or foster parents who aren’t family.

“These children come from all over the county,” she said. “It’s not just a Danville problem … They are parents who are either unable or unwilling to care for their children from every walk of life. The goal is to find them a safe, permanent home for their kids.”

Dobbles heard the story of one child who’d been in and out of a variety of foster homes and had been having trouble in a variety of ways. The advocate assigned to the child was a registered nurse who recognized that the child needed medical help. The child was diagnosed with diabetes and was ultimately placed in a home where her condition and the care she needed was understood.

Because advocates work with only one child or sibling group, children can have their undivided attention, Dobbles explained.

Illinois is one of the few states that does not publicly fund CASA organizations.

Heather Fox, Vermilion County CASA executive director, said it costs the organization about $250 to train an advocate.

The grant that started the program paid for 90 percent of the program’s expenses the first year, 70 percent the second year and nothing the third year.

Fox said the fundraising goal is $10,000, which will go toward the $70,000 overall budget for next year.

HOG ROAST

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Vermilion County will have its first fundraiser from 3-6 p.m. Oct. 4 at Kennekuk County Park’s Hickory Hollow. The day will feature barbecue, live music, kids’ activities and the chance to win a quarter hog or a hot air balloon ride. Tickets are $15 for everyone 12 and older; $5 for childen 5 to 11 years old; there is no admission for children younger than 5. Patrons are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blanket. Call 446-5975 to order tickets or visit http://www.casavermilion.org/hogroast

COMING UP

A new CASA training session will begin Oct. 1. Applications or additional information may be obtained by calling Executive Director Heather Fox at the CASA office, 446-5975, or by visiting the Web site http://www.casavermilion.org. Each volunteer must complete an application and interview process and pass a background check.

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