CLARK COUNTY, Wash. -- An advocacy group in Clark County says the number of abused and neglected children has grown so much it's having trouble keeping up with caseloads.
Clark County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) says the number of children coming in increased by 15 percent from 2015 to 2016. The organization expects a similar increase in 2017.
“The workload is so difficult to get our arms around,” said CASA program director Sheryl Thierry. “We do the best we can, but if the staff is working cases then they can't properly support the volunteers.”
CASA serves abused and neglected children in the court system.
“Eighty percent of the cases we get are neglect, roughly called neglect,” said Thierry. “That could be drug abuse or untreated mental health.”
Thierry says there are a number of factors contributing to the increase in children into their system. She says there has been a rise in drug abuse and untreated mental health in the community. She says the increase in homelessness makes it harder to reunite families.
“Sometimes the parent does everything they can, they get clean and sober but they can’t find affordable housing,” said Thierry.
There are more than 650 children in the CASA program in Clark County. They only have 130 volunteers.
Thierry says they can’t fix the root cause of the problem, but they can keep advocating for children with the help of more volunteers.
Volunteers like Dennis Kampe.
“If you love kids we have some who really need you,” said Kampe. "They need love and understanding and someone who would have a caring heart and look after their best interest.”
The majority of children coming into the CASA Program are younger than 12 years old.