LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — CASA of Lackawanna County has a little office on Jefferson Avenue in Scranton, where people drop off donations, whether it is toys or money. It is also where advocates are planning their annual fundraising event—the gala that keeps the program going.
"Currently, we're able to advocate for just 30 percent of the children here in Lackawanna County. So right now, we're serving 50 of the over 200 children that are in foster care in Lackawanna Count," said executive director Joan Peterson, CASA of Lackawanna County.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates; it is a volunteer advocacy program for children in foster care.
There are nearly 1,000 CASA programs all over the country, including several in Pennsylvania. This one serves only children in Lackawanna County and has only been around since 2008. Because of that, advocates are always trying to get the word out about who they are and what they do.
"It's hundreds of children and families. We've been able to see the incredible impact it has. For our kids, we know there's no place like home," Peterson said.
Hence, the Wizard of Oz theme of this year's fundraising event. CASA's Red Shoe Gala is next month at La Buona Vita in Dunmore. Volunteers and donations are the lifeboats of the CASA program, and to take on more cases, the group needs more help.
"We can't assign them a CASA worker because we need to train more volunteers, which is why we have this fundraiser and raise this money," said Lisa Murphy, board chair of CASA of Lackawanna County.
In the overburdened and understaffed child welfare system, caseworkers have so many cases, but CASA volunteers are assigned to just one family, which advocates say makes the connection and relationship so much more meaningful.
Murphy was one of the first volunteers for the program in Lackawanna County.
"And if you work one on one with that family and that child, they have a better success rate of being reunified with their families or being found a permanent, safe, loving home," she said.
If you would like to attend this year's CASA Red Shoe Gala on Friday, October 13, or would like more information about how you can volunteer with or donate to the advocacy group, click here.
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