The Champaign County CASA provided legal services this year to about 595 foster children, but served about 200 less just two years ago.
CASA helps children from unstable homes with negligent parents so the children can be properly represented in the court system.
Executive Director Rush Record said, before this year, the year 2020 had the largest number of foster children the organization has ever supported. He said 40% of the children were under the age of six years old. Record has worked for the organization for 15 years and has always been involved in aiding foster children.
“Domestic violence in the households made 2020 our highest number of children we serviced ever due to the pandemic,” Record said earlier this year.
A CU-CitizenAccess review of police data shows domestic violence rose in Champaign last year and had a large impact on the Black community.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. This branch of CASA is based in Champaign, but is a national organization that has been around since 1994. These court appointed special advocates are contracted by the county and assigned to a child to oversee their home reassignment and to assure they are getting proper care.
CASA has currently employed and trained 120 special advocates, of whom live in the Champaign area and neighboring towns.
Last year’s rising political and economic tensions threw children into the foster system at a higher rate than ever.
The organization relies solely on individual giving and fundraises over 50% of its budget, equaling about $750,000 annually, by hosting its own events. There is no corporate support, so it is up to the Champaign staff and local supporters to help them in this endeavor. Some of these local supporters include The Champaign Rotary Club, the Community Foundation of East Central and the United Way.
Record said Kappa Alpha Theta, affiliated with the Panhellenic Council of the University of Illinois, is one of the organization’s biggest supporters. The Champaign Kappa Alpha Theta branch on campus partnered with their neighbors across the street, the HUB Champaign, to put on a charity fundraising event for the CASA in Campustown.
The Hub Champaign alone raised $2,000 by providing the event with basketball shirts.
Kappa Alpha Theta’s Chief of External Affairs Officer, Maddy West, raised close to $14,000 on October 17 by hosting a basketball tournament on East Daniel Street open to the entire university student body. She has worked closely with the Champaign County CASA board to help reach their funding goals.
West, a junior at the University of Illinois from Mundelein, Illinois, discusses her biggest take away from her fundraising position and being on the staff.
“Getting to hand the check to the CASA representative is the most rewarding part of my job,” West said. “The money we raised here at Kappa Alpha Theta through our annual basketball tournament and Facebook donations directly affects the organization and goes towards lawyers and providing a community and support system behind the foster kids.”
On October 8, CASA partnered with Busey, Carle, Insurance Risk Managers and the Champaign Multimedia Group, LLC to create their virtual gala fundraising event that raised $109,970. This was $9,970 over the goal.
To sponsor a child for one week it is $100 and for the entire year costs $1,200. The money raised from the CasaBlanca virtual fundraising gala alone is giving 91 children the support they need while going through the court system.