CASA for kids program needs volunteers

La Crosse program serving only half of children

Court-appointed special advocates help children when they are most vulnerable, but there is a shortage of those volunteers in La Crosse. One organization is trying to change that.

The volunteers help advocate in court for children who have sometimes been removed from their parent’s care.

Right now, volunteers in the La Crosse area help 96 children, but a statewide campaign by the organization is trying to recruit more volunteers to help more children in need.

With her own children out of the house, Stacy Trisler was looking for a new experience.

“When I first started, I just wanted to get involved, and I loved children, so it sounded like a good place to start out,” Trisler said.

Trisler is now a Court-appointed special advocate, a volunteer who works one-on-one with children under the court’s protection.

“Part of my role is to make sure they get the services that they need to help them get through this time, and to serve as that point of contact on a weekly basis,” Trisler said.

The volunteers work with the court to provide the best conditions for the children.

“If they have been taken into foster care, everything that they know, they’ve just lost basically,” Trisler said.

Jessie Fortuna is the program’s director in La Crosse.

“The kids are likely to find permanency and find it faster than if they didn’t have a CASA volunteer,” Fortuna said.

The local organization offers services for La Crosse, Monroe and Vernon counties, but Fortuna explains it falls short of its goal.

“There was almost 200 child protection cases opened in our three-county radius last year,” Fortuna said. “We serve 96 kids last year, so there’s still over half of the kids without a volunteer.”

Trisler said the volunteering has been a life-changing experience.

“The kids really teach me about life, about resiliency,” Trisler said. “It’s never too late that children can come from a very bad environment and can do better.

She hopes others will join with her in that mission.

“If just one person can make that difference in their lives, it can really change the course of where they go.”
Volunteers have 30 hours of training before they work with children.

It requires only about one hour a week with the child.

During that time period, the volunteer will report to the judge on the condition of the child.

If someone wants to learn more about the CASA program, call (608) 781-2783 ext. 224.