The county's Court Appointed Special Advocates program this week received a six-figure state grant aimed at helping shorten the wait list of children in need of services.
CASA executive director Denise Swink said she secured a Victims of Crimes grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, one totaling just under $192,000.
The money, she said, will go toward the hiring of additional staff to help provide CASA services to the more than 120 children currently sitting on the organization's wait list.
Just how many, she isn't quite ready to say as the $192,000 is actually less than what she asked for. She is hopeful, however, that the money will reduce their wait list by as much as 70%.
“I'll have to go back and revise that just a little bit, make (my plan) fit with the amount we were awarded,” she said. “But the goal is to serve as many children as we can.
“I'm trying to find the best way to advocate for these children without using any more county dollars.”
Last fall, the CASA program moved under county management, specifically that of Knox County Superior Court I and Judge Gara Lee.
It had operated under the umbrella of Child and Family Services for more than 20 years.
The move was inspired by tightened restrictions on CFS programs, potentially affecting state funding. So CASA employees were moved into John Gregg's former law office at 112 N. Seventh St. alongside the Veterans Affairs program.
Still, CASA has struggled with reducing its wait list of children.
Amid a shortage of CASA volunteers, in June, Swink went before members of the county council requesting an additional full-time staff member — currently she has three part-time and three full-time employees. They denied her request and told her to include it in her proposed 2020 spending plan; they would consider it then, council members told her.
This grant, however, will largely meet her staffing needs without any additional money from the county.
Swink will likely use the money, she said, to hire a mix of part-time and full-time people.
It will also, she added, provide funds for the training and recruitment of more volunteers, of which they are in desperate need of more, hence the grant for additional staffing.
Swink, too, said the $192,000 is meant to last just a year.
Next year she can rewrite the grant, state officials have told her, the award for which would likely be larger, enough to last for three years.