“There are children alive today because the CASAs did their job and did it well,” he said.

It’s the belief of many in the juvenile justice system that Court Appointed Special Advocates not only help abused and neglected children, but society as a whole.

“CASA’s involvement in a case brings better outcomes for children without significant additional public costs,” said Kristin Bishay, director of Monroe County CASA. “And taking services away from these families will create a far greater cost in the future, not just in terms of the dollars and cents but the harm that is caused to children.”

Bishay said abused or neglected children who don’t receive needed services, or are forced to return to unsafe homes, are more likely to become juvenile delinquents down the road.

“That leads to more payments to foster care parents and more money needed to pay for further services for the child,” she said. “And when more kids are re-entering the system, more DCS case workers are needed to handle their cases.”

Bishay said the national recidivism rate – the percent of abuse or neglect cases that have to be reopened due to further abuse or neglect – is 50 percent among cases without a CASA volunteer, but only 10 percent among cases in which a CASA volunteer is involved.

Ann Houseworth, director of communications with the state DCS, said the DCS does not keep track of its case recidivism rates.

“But locally, our CASA program has witnessed a rise in recidivism firsthand,” Bishay said. “It’s definitely happening more often.”

Monroe County CASA’s payroll accounts for 70 percent of its annual $260,000 budget, mainly to pay professional staff to supervise and train the CASA volunteers.

Juvenile court Judge Steve Galvin said the CASA program is a bargain for the county, which pays only $100,000 of CASA’s annual budget – the rest coming from CASA’s fundraising efforts.

“The CASAs give us hundreds of thousands of dollars in volunteer work every year,” he said. “And the quality of the CASAs we get – doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, retirees – is incredible.”

“There are children alive today because the CASAs did their job and did it well,” he said.

Bishay cites a 2006 audit of the National CASA Association conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General found that:

Only 13 percent of children with a CASA volunteer spend time in long-term foster care, while 27 percent of children who don’t have a CASA spend time in long-term foster care.

When a CASA volunteer was involved, both children and their parents were ordered by the courts to receive more services. The audit concluded that this was an indication that “CASA is effective in identifying the needs of children and parents.”

Cases involving a CASA volunteer are three times more likely to be permanently closed – meaning the children are reunited with their families or adopted – than cases where a CASA volunteer is not involved.

Children with a CASA volunteer are less likely to be placed back with their parents than children not assigned a CASA volunteer. The audit says this is because CASA volunteers typically serve the most serious cases of maltreatment, cases where children are less likely to be reunited with their parents.