Center for Community Alternatives (CCA) provides the Court Appointed Special Advocate® (CASA®) program, serving the Onondaga County area. Its mission is to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. Through a collaborative approach, Onondaga CASA promotes and supports quality volunteer representation for children in the courts and advocates for a network of resources to provide each child with a safe, permanent and nurturing home. Onondaga CASA is one of more than 900 programs with more than 70,000 volunteers nationwide.
The year 2009 marks the 12th anniversary of CCA's Onondaga CASA program. The program has had 125 active volunteers and served 380 children. CASA maintains 40 active volunteers and serves about 120 children annually
CASA® volunteers are assigned to an abuse or neglect case by a judge. They conduct thorough research on the background of the case, reviewing documents, interviewing everyone involved, including the child. They make reports to the court, providing the judge with information that will help him or her make an informed decision. Volunteers can be instrumental in assuring that a child or family receives services which the court has ordered - things like substance counseling or special education testing. During the life of a case, a volunteer monitors the child's situation to makes sure she or he remains safe.
CCA's Onondaga CASA program received national recognition from the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (NCASAA) in 2003 as an excellent program and a "leader in achieving diversity." "It is a great honor to receive NCASAA's first ever Diversity Leadership Award," says Marsha Weissman, Executive Director of CCA. CCA's commitment to diversity has taken many forms, including: focus group discussions with community members, the development of a "diversity friendly outreach and recruitment" and the preparation of a manual, "Many Children, Many Voices: A Manual for Increasing Diversity in CASA Programs".
In 2004 the MONY Life Insurance Company VIP Award recognized Onondaga CASA's outstanding volunteer programs. The family court judges note that CCA's programs offer high levels of training, attract volunteers with diverse backgrounds and skills as well as successfully win long-term involvement and commitment from volunteers.
The Onondaga CASA program is fortunate to have a strong base of community support. Original program start-up was funded by the National CASA Association. The program is currently funded by United Way of Central New York, NYS Office of Court Administration and individual donors. The annual Light of Hope® Breakfast serves as a friendraiser and annual fundraiser. The 6th Annual Light of Hope® Breakfast held in September 2009 was sponsored by CNY Infusion Services and Sharon and David Northrup. The Light of Hope Award was given to Judge Minna Buck. The Hero Award was given to April Stone and CNY Infusion Services. Two hundred friends and supporters attend this year's Light of Hope® Breakfast.
For more information or to volunteer contact:
Betty Carroll, Program Coordinator
Onondaga CASA Program
Center for Community Alternatives
115 East Jefferson Street, Suite 300
Syracuse, New York 13202