Sifting through hundreds of cases of child abuse and neglect, CASA’s Intake Coordinator, Brenda Nepute, is given the heart-wrenching task of choosing which vulnerable children will receive the powerful voice of a CASA volunteer and which children will not. Brenda tracks the cases on our wait list, assigning herself as the CASA staff and acting as a second set of eyes and ears until a CASA can be assigned. “We don’t have enough volunteers to take on these cases,” she says, “so the cases prioritized on the wait list are the worst of the worst.” With over 1,600 children spending at least one night in foster care last year, we know that every child could benefit from having a CASA volunteer, but with the need for more volunteers, Brenda must decide which children will receive an advocate.
Children are referred to our waiting list by anyone involved in their case, ranging from their teachers, counselors, DHS caseworkers, family members, and our Juvenile Court Judges. Priority factors on our wait list include: multiple siblings in care, children with high barriers, multiple foster home placements, no identified relatives, length of time in care, etc. “It makes me happy when I see a case get assigned to a CASA,” she says. “I spend a huge amount of time matching cases to CASAs. I go back over them sometimes three times before I send them to a Program Supervisor [to ensure it’s the right fit].” This is something that does not go unnoticed by our Juvenile Court Judges, who have repeatedly remarked on the successful matching of advocates to cases. When pairing CASAs with their assigned children, Brenda often reminds people that “there are no easy cases. These are the very worst, and that’s why they need a CASA advocating for them.”
Brenda has seen many trends in our waiting lists over the years. Today, that trend is infants. CASA’s wait list has 14 infants in need of advocacy. Brenda says that each report reads similarly: “born after being exposed to meth and heroin;” “infant is not able to sit, smile, or make sounds due to drug use during pregnancy;” “child born with withdrawals from opiates, amphetamines, and codeine.” These infants come from drug-affected homes, neglectful parents, and oftentimes total abandonment. With no one advocating for these children directly, they risk slipping through the cracks and experiencing further neglect and abuse.
Brenda admits that she was nervous before becoming a CASA in 2003. She reminds interested volunteers that “we’re here to guide you. We have very skilled Program Supervisors and Peer Coordinators. There is so much support put into place for every single CASA.” She says everyone can make a difference on these cases simply “because of what these kids have been through.”
Be a powerful voice for a child on our wait list. There is a child already waiting for you.
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Brenda Nepute is CASA’s Intake Coordinator, managing our waiting list of children in need of a CASA. Brenda became a CASA advocate in 2003, joining our staff in 2011 as a Program Supervisor. She made the move to Intake Coordinator in 2016. Her office is located at Serbu. When not at CASA, you can find her gardening, tending to her three hens, and spending time with friends and family.