While the COVID-19 pandemic has required the First Judicial District CASA Association to make changes, the organization that serves children continues to provide its three main services, the director said.

CASA stands for court appointed special advocates. And CASA continues to provide advocates for children who are in the court system due to abuse or neglect.

Courts are largely shut down at the moment because of the pandemic. But CASA advocates are still meeting with the children they serve as often as they can, said Kelly Meyer, executive director of the First Judicial District CASA Association.

Because of the pandemic, the advocates are utilizing internet-based services to conduct “virtual visits,” Meyer said.

CASA also continues to operate the Child Exchange and Visitation Center. The center allows for the supervised visitation between parents and their children when monitoring may be necessary.

“It looks a lot different,” Meyer said.

Meyer said restrictions have been put in place to minimize the number of people in the center. And other protocols are being followed to reduce the risk of the coronavirus.

The local CASA organization also continues to operate the Child Advocacy Center. The center is used to conduct forensic interviews of children who have been the victims or witnesses of serious crimes.

Meyer said there is criteria being followed to determine when in-person interviews are needed.

She said 90% of the cases that utilize the Child Advocacy Center involve child sex abuse allegations.

“That doesn’t go away because of a pandemic,” she said.

There are some CASA programs that have been suspended as a result of the COVID-19 crisis including “open closet” events in which people can pick up items that have been donated. Meyer said CASA also has suspended two classes the organization offers to parents.

Nite at the Races, a major fundraiser for the organization, was postponed. The event had been scheduled for last week.

“We’re hoping to have that event in September,” Meyer said.

The event generally raises about $30,000 for CASA each year.

Meyer said donations pretty much have dried up as the COVID-19 crisis has taken a toll on the economy.

“People just aren’t able to give right now,” she said.

CASA qualified for a loan through the federal Payroll Protection Program. Meyer said this will provide assistance for eight weeks. But she believes the local CASA organization will see a shortfall of $65,000-$75,000 during the next four to six months.

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