Comments Off on CASA director: ‘Meth use more prevalent’

YORK – “We are seeing substance abuse issues rising in York County,” said Carl Knieriem, director of the local Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

“Methamphetamine use is more prevalent again. It had been dramatically reduced, but now it’s once again on the rise.”

Knieriem, along with CASA board member and volunteer, Dale Kahla, addressed the York County Commissioners this past week, regarding their annual report.

Because of the increase in drug abuse, the number of abused and neglected children is also on the rise.

Knieriem said 58 such children were in the court system in 2011. The number rose to 68 children in 2012.

“And, although it’s only June and we are only half-way through the year, there are already 56 children in the system,” Knieriem said.

“We’d like to think that no more children will be coming into the system this year, but there’s six months left to go and unfortunately, there will likely be more.”

“What I’ve seen is that substance abuse (by parents) and poverty seem to be the situations that get these kids in these situations,” Kahla said.

“We need to stop the cycle – for example, in one case, both parents had grown up in the system and here we go again with the next generation. If we can stop the abuse and neglect, we could stop the cycle.”

The good news is that the number of CASA volunteers is rising in York County. These volunteers become the “voices” for these children, going with them through the process and helping them toward having safe and permanent homes. There are currently 18 active advocates and five who are now in training.

While 21 children have court-appointed advocates, 35 do not.

“The number of those who don’t have an advocate is still way too high,” Knieriem said. “But we are encouraged because we are getting more volunteers.

“And many are younger so their potential of being with us for a longer period of time is higher,” Kahla said. “That is really exciting.”

Knieriem told the commissioners a story about one of the local children who are being served by CASA – noting that she changed his name to protect his identity.

“Charlie, now 13 years old, after suffering from severe abuse and neglect as a young child, continues to suffer from mental illness, occasional negative effects of medication changes, behavior issues and multiple moves,” she said.

“He is now in his 12th placement since 2006. Huge efforts have been made to care for Charlie, and to provide permanency for him, including efforts to reunify him with his biological mother and separately with his biological father.

“I cannot count the number of Health and Human Services workers that have been assigned to be Charlie’s case manager,” Knieriem said. “What Charlie does have are dedicated legal parties – York County Court, the county attorney and the guardian ad litem. Now even the judge has changed but this court system knows Charlie’s history and continues to do its best on Charlie’s behalf.

“Charlie is also fortunate to have his CASA advocate (since 2009) and a ‘grandma’ figure who provides a consistent presence of nurturing and care to Charlie. These people and entities are the only permanency in Charlie’s life.

From 2009-11, he resided in the Grand Island area. From 2011-13 he resided in Omaha. This month, he was temporarily placed at a group home in North Platte, meaning more placements in the future. The CASA advocate has been driving hundreds of miles to these places on a monthly basis to see Charlie, attend team meetings and to advocate for his needs.”

Knieriem says that both national and state statistics verify that a child served by a CASA volunteer spends on average four to five months fewer in care than a foster child without a CASA volunteer. She said that children without CASA volunteers re-enter the system at a rate of 16 percent, whereas recidivism for children with a CASA volunteer is “astonishingly low,” between 1.4 and 1.9 percent.

“This is not only a huge benefit to the children and families we serve, but our work saves our county, state and nation a huge amount of money,” Knieriem said.

The local CASA entity operates on financial contributions from the county, grant money and private contributions.

Knieriem said CASA is asking the county for an annual contribution of $30,375 – which is a 3 percent increase over last year’s contribution.

York County Attorney Candace Dick said she “obviously supports the program,” and Mitch Doht, the county’s highway superintendent, added that “as a foster parent, I know what a great program CASA is. It is really important and really wonderful.”

The commissioners thanked Kahla, Knieriem, their volunteers and board members – noting that they would take the financial request under consideration as the budget is formulated for the new fiscal year.



Comments are closed.