KINGMAN - An organization that has helped numerous local children has had a helping hand stretched out to it. A new non-profit organization, CASA Council Helping Children of Mohave County, has been created to raise funds for the Mohave County Court Appointed Special Advocates for children program.
CASA is a national organization staffed by volunteers who provide a friend and voice as a court advocate to abused, neglected or abandoned children. A branch of the program was started in Arizona in 1985.
Ron and Karin Stephen started the CASA Council and with the help of four board members from each of the three cities they hope the council will grow and provide much needed funding for extra curricular activities for CASA children. The other four board members are Mary Vanrooy, Carol Daly, Laura Jackson and Judy Pemberton.
The Stephens have served as a CASA couple for the last nine years.
The problem is that the Arizona CASA program cannot raise funds and cannot accept donations. Funding for Arizona CASA programs comes from unclaimed winnings from the state lottery, which is shared with a number of other state programs.
Foster care cuts
And as of March 1, the Arizona Department of Economic Security had cut the daily foster care rate for children by 20 percent, camp and vacation allowances for foster children have been eliminated, clothing allowances have been cut from $300 a year per child to $150, money for books and education was cut from $165 to $82.50 a year, state money for diapers was cut from $125 a month to $62.50 a month, and funds for Christmas and birthday presents was cut from $45 to $22.50.
In other words, you might want to think twice about turning in that winning lotto ticket.
At the same time, CASA volunteers are limited to spending $10 a year on a child they are helping - although some CASA volunteers have been known to break this rule from time to time.
The lack of funding and the strict spending limit can put a crimp in taking a child struggling through a difficult time to the movies, a special event or even signing them up for music lessons or an athletic team.
"We need something to benefit the whole child," Ron Stephen said. Most of the children in the CASA program don't get the opportunity to take music, dance or martial arts lessons. They don't get to play on athletic teams or go on camping trips. Some don't even get Christmas or birthday presents. Their families don't have the funds for such luxuries and neither does the state.
However, some of those luxuries can really make a difference in a child's life, Stephen said. They can teach a child responsibility, discipline, structure and a healthy, creative outlet for a child.
Besides, how can a child decide on what career to pursue as an adult if they don't get the chance to experiment and figure out their talents as a child, he said. Sports and other activities also provide a good way to boost the self-esteem of children who find themselves in difficult situations.
"We're just trying to give some kids some of the advantages that normal children have," he said. "We can't throw away a child. They're our future. There is a great need here."
Funds gathered by the CASA Council for Helping Children of Mohave County will be available to CASAs, case managers and foster parents. All they have to do is fill out an application to the group and send it back in.
The group already has its first fundraiser set up, a four-player scramble charity golf tournament on June 6 at Los Lagos Golf Course. Those not in tip-top golf shape can sponsor a golf tee for $100.
For more information on the event, contact Judy Pemberton at (928) 768-1532 or Brenda Heiselt at (928) 758-9030.