Kade Turner, Executive Director of CASA, joins Discover Lafayette to discuss his passion for serving children. He first became involved with CASA in 2017 through the encouragement of former Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux who was serving as Executive Director of CASA at that time.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. CASA advocates are trained community volunteers appointed by a judge to serve as a child’s voice in court. They represent the best interests of abused or neglected children during juvenile court and child protection proceedings. CASA is a nonprofit organization with both private and public funding sources.
CASA works on behalf of foster children within the 15th Judicial District Court which encompasses Lafayette, Acadia, and Vermilion Parishes. The Louisiana Children’s Code lays out the responsibilities of CASA and its trained volunteers who provide independent, third-party, objective assessments of what they see. Funding is provided by the Louisiana Supreme Court CASA Assistance Program, Victims of Crime Act Funding, the Louisiana Children’s Trust Fund, private donations and grants.
Approximately 340 children are being assisted by CASA and overseen by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. Most of the children in need of care are located right here in Lafayette Parish.
Volunteers go through thirty hours of training, serve without compensation, and are appointed by the court exercising juvenile jurisdiction. The judge will verify the volunteer’s qualifications, training, and ability to serve as a CASA volunteer, including the ability to represent and advocate for the best interest of the children assigned to him. You must be at least 21 years of age to serve and be able to commit two years of service. No volunteer is assigned until a comprehensive criminal background check has been conducted.
A CASA Volunteer spends time with their assigned child or sibling group getting to know the child while also gathering information from the child’s family, teachers, doctors, caregivers, and others involved in the child’s life. Approximately every six months, a report is prepared for the judge (with help from an assigned Supervisor) sharing recommendations for the child’s care. Learn more about volunteering with CASA of SoLA at casaofsola.org.
The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (“DFCS”) which oversees foster care services has lots of turnover and is short-staffed. CASA provides much-needed resources to help families meet the requirements to get their lives back on track. A study showed that only about 23% of families had the necessary resources to meet the requirements placed upon them by the court to be able to emerge from the system. CASA helps parents sign up for classes, arrange childcare so they can attend court-ordered classes, or provide food for the family for those times that the parent must be away.
Kade has also dedicated his life to helping children with health disorders. For 21 years he has been involved with the Louisiana Lions Camp in Vernon Parish for youth in Louisiana with respiratory disorders, special needs, juvenile diabetes, and childhood cancer. Lions Camp is free for qualifying boys and girls of Louisiana. All campers are sponsored by their local Lions Clubs.