CASA works to get budget cuts reinstated

By Corey Poole

There’s not enough paper clips to make up the $69,500 cut to CASA’s annual budget. Executive Director Jack Duty says it boils down to fewer children being served. This means that few children in foster care will have someone to speak for them in court and many of them will stay longer in foster care.

CASA of Central Louisiana serves Natchitoches, Sabine and Red River Parishes. Duty closed the Many office after the cut was announced.
“I’ve been here since 2009,” he said. “I’ve been told every year to not depend on funding, but there’s never been a cut until this year. They’ve been kicking this can down the road for state finances through the past several administrations. Now there’s nowhere left to kick it. I had just hoped it’d be reasonable.”

What the drop from $224,000 to $174,000 means, is that Duty now has to decide where these cuts will be made within the organization. However, these cuts are happening to the 17 CASA programs across the state.

“Rapides and Terrebonne lost more than us and I guess I feel fortunate in that respect,” said Duty.

The problem is that while larger CASA programs may have more than one funder and can move money around, Duty’s program has one funder and it’s not reoccurring.
“I hope I won’t have to get into employees,” he said. Besides the Many office, he’s looking at cutting mileage reimbursement, which would save around $7-8,000 per year. The landlords for the Many office understood CASA’s position and allowed Duty to break the lease with a 60-day notice, which will save him over $6,000 per year. However, this is about 10 percent of where he needs to be.

The CASA programs are diligently lobbying the House and the Senate to reinstate the cuts they made with HB 69. There will me a council meeting in Natchitoches July 18 to determine the final outcome of funding.

“In reality, CASA saves them money,” said Duty. “CASA is a preventative measure.”
• One year of CASA advocacy costs less than one month of foster care
• A child with a CASA volunteer is more likely to find a safe, permanent home
• A child with a CASA volunteer is half as likely to re-enter the foster care system
• A child with a CASA volunteer is more likely to succeed in school and less likely to spend three or more years in foster care

Since Louisiana has custody of these children, it’s obligated to pay for the cost of their care. In 2015, CASA volunteers provided 65,000 hours of service to foster children, saving the state millions. More importantly, children in foster care without CASA are more likely to experience poor outcomes that can negatively affect them for the rest of their lives, which costs the state more money in lost wages and public assistance.

CASA significantly improves outcomes for the abused and neglected children it represents, and serves over 3,000 children in the state. CASA of Central Louisiana has 23 volunteer advocates serving 45 children, with three advocates currently in training. Duty said they’re always looking for more volunteers.