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Wood asks board to ‘look again’ at CASA budget

Gloria Wood, director of Harrison County’s CASA program, has repeatedly asked the county council for more hours or more financial help during budget hearings the past several years.
This year was no different. And after the council made its way through the entire $32 million budget, it did not award Wood her request.
So, at the council’s regular meeting Monday night, Aug. 23, Wood approached the board again, with support, to try to change the councilmembers’ minds.
Wood is allotted part-time status (29 hours) as is the volunteer coordinator. Wood requested 32 hours per week to jump to full-time status. Wood’s entire budget granted by the council is just more than $52,000. She requested more than $63,000.
The council will read the budget at two meetings in September before it becomes official.
‘Evidently, I failed to impress upon you the importance of this program to continue and expand,’ Wood said. ‘I’m asking you to look again at our budget.’
Wood’s program, CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates), provides a ‘voice’ for powerless children, who are often in the foster care system because their home environments are unsafe. These children are alleged to have suffered abuse, neglect or other physical or sexual mistreatment, often due to one or both parents’ drug or alcohol addictions.
Once in the system, the court must determine whether the children can be reunified with their families or if they need a different permanent plan such as adoption or guardianship. The mission of the Harrison County CASA program is to advocate for the best interests of children in abused, neglected and custody cases through the service of specially selected and trained community volunteers.
Harrison County has approximately 25 advocates, Wood said.
‘We need to be there for them,’ Wood said of the children, ‘or they’ll become disillusioned. We have great volunteers that are very willing to spend time with our children.’
A couple of advocates and others were present at the meeting to show support for Wood’s request.
‘Gloria does need some extra help in the office,’ Libby Tucker, case manager for the county’s Department of Child Services, said, adding that the advocates are like having extra eyes and ears in the children’s homes.
For more information about CASA, call 738-3645 or visit harrisoncountycasa.org.
The council will again look at the request at its regular meeting Monday night, Sept. 13.

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