MHA is pleased to announce that its Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program has received approval from the National CASA/guardian ad litem Board of Trustees to expand services to Putnam County and serve more youth currently in, or at risk of placement in, the child welfare system.
CASAs are trained community volunteers who are assigned by a Family Court Judge to advocate for the best interests of children involved in child welfare proceedings. The volunteers are powerful voices for children, working to protect their rights and meet their physical health, behavioral health and educational needs. CASAs can be assigned at any point throughout the court case and remain with the child until they are placed in a permanent home with their biological or extended family, or until adoption is achieved.
“I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to increase the scope of our impact and reach children involved in the Putnam County Child Welfare system,” said Michaele McIlnay, Director of Children’s Advocacy Services. “I have seen firsthand the impact that our trained volunteers have in the lives of these children as they navigate the child welfare system and as our team continues to grow, our mission to advocate for their best interests remains at the heart of our work.”
In 2020, there were 59 children under the court’s jurisdiction in Putnam County due to abuse or neglect. The funding, provided by Office of Victim’s Services, will enable CASA of Westchester and Putnam Counties to focus on increasing the number of volunteers addressing the critical need to serve the most vulnerable youth in Putnam. Currently consisting of 58 trained volunteers, MHA’s CASA program will recruit, train and supervise 15 additional volunteers this spring in order to meet the demand that will come with this geographical expansion. Increasing recruitment and training efforts will help the program to better serve Westchester and Putnam County youth, further mitigating the impact of trauma on children and promoting greater outcomes.
“We applaud The Mental Health Association of Westchester for expanding CASA advocacy into Putnam County, serving even more of New York’s most vulnerable children,” said Jackie Boissonnault, LMSW, Executive Director of CASA New York State. “Now available in 30 New York counties, I am so pleased to know that having a CASA is now possible for the children and families of Putnam County.”