KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The local Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, has seen the number of child abuse cases it handles double in Johnson and Wyandotte counties since April.
With more children returning to virtual learning, CASA fears those numbers will continue to rise.
CASA worked for hours Thursday, along with Santa and his helpers, to make sure kids in the foster system this holiday season know they are not forgotten.
"Due to Covid this year we’ve had many companies that are not able to support with toys like they have in the past and some of the businesses even had to close,” Director of Recruitment and Training for CASA Nina Kimbrough said.
This is why the organization is turning to the public for help.
CASA wants to make sure children who have been removed from their home because of child abuse, have toys for the holiday season.
“Just imagine if you were a child traumatized, you’ve been abused and neglected and removed from your home and now you are in foster care and you don’t even know if Santa will find you," Kimbrough said. "They have had a really tough time this year, one of the hardest times ever as many people have.”
One of the biggest challenges CASA faces is there are more children coming into the foster care system now than ever before .
This is causing the need for volunteers and toys this holiday season to double.
“There have been families that have children in the car and the kids are so excited to give and the children that are waiting for these gifts that may not have gifts otherwise they are hoping for that special Christmas and hoping that Santa will be able to find them," CASA volunteer Kim Robertson said.
CASA is hoping through similar generosity, the community will step up long after the holidays have passed and be a volunteer.
"CASA of Johnson and Wyandotte County empowers children with a volunteer as a voice in court by seeking a safe permanent home for each child," Kimbrough said.
“My kids know I’m coming they look forward to me coming and sometimes I’m the only familiar face the study face that’s always there for them," Robertson said. "It has fulfilled a part of my life I never even knew existed.“
CASA is currently only able to serve about a third of the cases assigned to them by the courts because they do not have enough volunteers.
If you missed Thursday's toy drive and would still like to donate you can do so by dropping off donations at the CASA facility or by sending gifts to CASA through Amazon.
According to the organization, kids who have a CASA volunteer are far less likely to be re-abused and far more likely to find a safe permanent home.
For the last eight years, 95% of children with CASA volunteers have not been re-abused or re-entered the Greater Kansas City court systems.
For information about volunteering, visit casakc.org, call CASA of Johnson & Wyandotte Counties at 913-715-4040 or call Jackson County CASA at 816-984-8200.
Volunteering with CASA takes about 10 hours a month.