Advocates for abused children start Web site

A local Web site is up and running, allowing anyone who has considered volunteering with abused children to find out more about it.

The Carson City branch of Court Appointed Special Advocates, a national organization, now has a Web address:

The advocates recruit and train volunteers to represent neglected or abused children in court and help determine what is in the child's best interest. The Carson branch won a $40,000 grant from the national office to fund the Web site, along with other recruiting efforts.

"Being a CASA is a committment," said director Chris Bayer. "People want to know what they're getting into if they volunteer."

More than 10 children have needed an advocate during the past year, although about 20 people are volunteering today.

"When we talk about the needs of abused children, we're always talking in generalities," said Bayer, noting that the law does not allow the specifics of any one case to leave the courtroom. "I can't tell you about, say, little Susie who got beat up," he said. "The Web site is just one more way for us to get the information out there."

The site tells what is required of a volunteer and answers a list of frequently asked questions.

The organization got its start in a Seattle courtroom in 1977 when a judge decided he needed to know more about the backgrounds of the children who were appearing before him. The pilot program was formed, and today it has 900 jurisdictions.

Bayer himself volunteered for five years before becoming the director in 1998. As far as the numbers of cases surfacing in Carson City, he is realistic.

"It's no better or worse here than anywhere else," Bayer said. "People always want to think their town is doing better. The irony is, even though the economy is improving, this [child abuse] issue is not. "

He sees the recent South Lake Tahoe murder case of Krystal Steadman as evidence of the need for advocates.

"The Soria case is a prime example," Bayer said. "Both the father and son were abused children."

For more information

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)



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