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CASA advocates for children in need


Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of articles highlighting the agencies that receive funding from United Way of Ellis County.

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. I am Lyndsey Crisenbery, and I am the new executive director of CASA of the High Plains.

I was raised in Beloit and moved to Hays in 2003 to attend Fort Hays State University, where I obtained a bachelor's degree in social work. I also am married to Derrick Crisenbery, and we have three small children.

I most recently worked for Hays Area Children's Center as the resource and referral coordinator, where I had the opportunity to truly see how nonprofits work and how important they are in strengthening our community.

As the new executive director of CASA, I plan to continue growing CASA's volunteer base in order to better serve the children who have been abused and neglected, and now are in our court system due to no fault of their own.

You probably have heard news stories about children taken from abusive homes. We assume there must be a program or system that will take care of these children and make sure they are treated with dignity, given a safe place to live so they can recover from their hardship and be a child again. But there is a story few people speak about. It is the story of an overburdened foster care and child welfare system that, though full of well-intentioned and deeply committed people, cannot begin to meet the needs of the more than 660,000 children in foster care in the United States.

It is the story of a 3-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl, who after being abused, now are separated from each other and living in different foster homes. It is the story of a baby girl whose parents were too intoxicated to care for her. It is the story of three children whose mother suffers from severe depression and is unable to care for them, and their father is incarcerated.

Perhaps you think these stories happen in big cities, but not here -- not in Hays. The truth is in Ellis County alone, there are approximately 100 open child in need of care cases of abused and neglected children at any given time. We have some of the worst cases of abuse we have seen in Ellis County.

CASA of the High Plains has 10 volunteers, and we are serving 21 children. Our mission is to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children so they can find a safe, permanent home as soon as possible. CASA provides compassionate, highly trained volunteers who are empowered by the courts to provide this advocacy in the 23rd Judicial District (Ellis, Gove, Rooks and Trego counties). The need is great in western Kansas.

National research shows children with a court appointed special advocate are half as likely to languish in foster care and much more likely to find safe permanent homes. The CASA volunteer's reward is seeing a child being placed in a safe, permanent home.

As with most nonprofits, we greatly depend on donations and grants. One way you can help support us is to attend our fourth annual Valentine Evening event at 6 p.m. Feb. 7 at Rose Garden Banquet Hall.

Tickets to the event are $30 each or a table of eight for $200. The event includes a live and silent auction, and a fine-dining experience. All proceeds directly benefit the recruitment, training and management of CASA volunteers.

To purchase a ticket to the event or become a CASA volunteer, call (785) 628-8641.