Governor signs bill to fund CASA organizations

8/20/2013, 11:31 p.m.

The governor signed into law a bill that aids in providing financial support to Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) programs.

The new law allows county boards to request that county courts adopt an additional fee of $10 to $30 on convictions and grantings of supervision for felonies, misdemeanors, petty offences, and business offenses. The revenue collected through these means will be used to support Court Appointed Special Advocates services.

"This law creates a situation in which the guilty can protect the innocent," said Sen. McGuire (D-Joliet), who sponsored the bill in the Senate. "The fines collected from those who do wrong will create a revenue stream so that CASA organizations can continue to remove abused and neglected children from dangerous and harmful environments."

CASA organizations are the only nonprofit agencies in Illinois authorized by statute to provide services to Illinois Juvenile Courts. CASA organizations advocate on behalf of children who have been abused or neglected and are now in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services. Their employees, who are largely volunteers, are often appointed as guardians ad litem for these children throughout court proceedings.

"These advocates assist children who are coming from abusive situations," Sen. McGuire continued. "They find safe, stable homes for them and help provide the support and stability that has long been lacking. That's why we need to strongly support them."

Illinois is one of only seven states that does not fund CASA programs. Each CASA program is a separate nonprofit organization that relies heavily on community support to provide services. However, current fundraising efforts only allow the organizations to serve 38 percent of at-risk children in 36 Illinois counties. The fee that can be adopted through the new law will help ensure that CASA organizations can improve their services statewide.