CASA fundraiser March 24 - For Ann Arbor attorney, volunteer work on behalf of needy children is a no-brainer

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By Jo Mathis

Legal News

Ann Arbor attorney Julie Dunbar learned about the Washtenaw County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program about six years ago when it was fairly new in Washtenaw County.

"I didn't know a thing about it," said Dunbar whose practice focuses on estate planning, estate settlement and real estate law. "A friend invited me to a fundraiser and I thought, `This is amazing! ... It's hard not to like the CASA program because it makes a huge difference for the children."

Now as president of the Friends of CASA Board, Dunbar is spreading the word about a fourth annual fundraiser, "Rockin' the CASA" to be held from 7-11 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, at the UA Local 190 Hall, 7920 Jackson Road in Ann Arbor.

Funds raised will support recruitment, training, and supervision of CASA Volunteers.

Dunbar said she was impressed to learn that CASA volunteers go through 30 hours of training before they are appointed to a child or siblings removed from their home because of neglect or abuse.

While the neglect/abuse case is active, CASA volunteers have weekly contact with the children, investigate and monitor their situations, and provide important information to the court judicial staff to help find a safe, permanent home for the children

"National statistics show that children who have CASA during a very difficult period are less likely to drop out of school, get pregnant, become truant or juvenile offenders," said Dunbar. "To me, it's all an up side."

"It's a wonderful opportunity for community members to be involved in the court system. They don't have to be lawyers. They don't have to have any kind of background in juvenile law or justice. They just have a commitment to the children."

The CASA program in Washtenaw County is a public/private partnership between the Washtenaw County Trial Court and the Friends of CASA.

Abused and neglected children in the foster care system in Washtenaw County are among the most vulnerable people in our community, and CASA volunteers become someone to speak up for them, said Cheri Dunn, Executive Director of Friends of CASA.

Dunn noted that a nationwide study found that a child assigned a CASA had less time in out-of-home care, fewer changes in case plans, and fewer hearings where changes in case plans were made when compared with children in the foster care system without a CASA.

Dunn says the fundraiser is always fun, but will be even bigger and better this year.

"We have about 300 guests every year, and there's dancing and great food and beverages and a casino night and wonderful items in the silent auction as well as a live auction," she said of the event, which has a 70's theme. "That in itself is great. But in addition, we have this wonderful cause that serves the abused and neglected children in Washtenaw County. And the donations go right to the program."

"We also think of it as a friend-raiser," said Dunbar. "We're building awareness that we're here."

Tickets are $50 per person or $90 per couple and are available online at www.rockinthecasa.org. Tickets will be available at the door for $60.

For more information, go to www.casawashtenaw.org.

Published: Mon, Mar 12, 2012

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