Butler County Volunteers Advocate for Local Children

When children are abuse victims in juvenile court cases, they can have a hard time speaking out for themselves. They need someone to make sure they have a safe landing—a bit like a parachute.

PARACHUTE is Butler County’s branch of the national Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) association. CASA is a nonprofit agency dedicated to providing trained community volunteers to children who are in the Juvenile Court system due to abuse, neglect or abandonment; these volunteers are willing to take a stand for Butler County’s most vulnerable children. The CASA concept is based on the commitment that every child has the right to a safe, permanent home, as soon as possible.

“Children go to school hungry, or are falling behind academically, so the CASA’s are trained to identify the needs of the child,” explains Janie Cochran, development specialist for PARACHUTE. “Many of the cases are connected to the opioid epidemic.”

PARACHUTE has been serving Butler County since 1988 and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It began after a parental custody case resulted in a child being killed by her father. This case pushed Judge David Niehaus, Butler County commissioners, and the Hamilton Junior Women’s League to start working to get a CASA program here in Butler County. The first volunteers were trained the following year.

CASA volunteers do more than simply advocate in court. They use a holistic approach to making sure that the child remains safe, stays on track academically, receives much needed counseling, and finds a safe, permanent home in a timely manner. The volunteer is there to look out for the interest of the child, from recommending therapy to nutritional programs to making sure they get eyeglasses if they can’t see well enough to participate in school.

CASA volunteers come from all walks of life, though many are retired teachers. PARACHUTE’s volunteer base also includes an airline pilot, a retired attorney, stay-at-home moms and nurses who are trained CASA volunteers. Overall, more women than men currently volunteer.

“It would be great if we had more male volunteers because we have teenage boys who need a positive male role model,” Cochran says. “When we get a case, we are always hoping that one of our male CASAs will be available. There is an increased need for them since the work attracts more women than men. Our current male volunteers, however, are wonderful and do a great job.”

PARACHUTE’s CASA volunteers include people like Bev, who says this role has helped her to become more empathetic and has given her a place for her passion and energy during retirement.

“I have learned to look deeper at the individual, and to find goodness despite some bad choices,” Bev says. “I have seen the amazing resilience of children and hold hope for their future.”

One of the most rewarding aspects, both for the staff of PARACHUTE and for the CASA volunteers themselves, is seeing children who get the things they need to continue learning and growing.

“We see kids now and they are thriving, talking about how they are now going to go to college, even though they never thought it would be possible,” Cochran says. “One girl got a Ph.D. in Psychology to be a therapist for foster kids like herself.”

To learn more or to apply to become a trained volunteer, go online or call 513.867.5010. ParachuteCASA.org