Judge Nikirk’s Request To Hire Full-Time CASA Position Approved

(BEDFORD) – Lawrence County Circuit Court Judge Nathan Nikirk’s request to hire a full-time CASA caseworker was approved.

Melissa Craig will serve in the new position following the approval by the Lawrence County Council during Tuesday night’s meeting.

It is required by Indiana Law to require the court to appoint a CASA in every contested Termination of Parental Rights case. Not having one is grounds for a reversal.

Judge Nathan Nikirk

As of June 1, 2020, there are 215 cases assigned to the Lawrence County CASA Program. According to Nikirk, the program serves 135 children and has 80 on a waiting list.

This is an improvement from January 2018 when there were approximately 275 children assigned to the Lawrence County CASA program and more than 220 on the waitlist. During that time the program was serving approximately 60 children.

With the approval of this position, the CASA program will now have two full time and two part-time employees.

Most CASA caseworkers average 10-15 hours a month on their cases and these cases typically last more than a year. That adds up to 120-180 hours a year per case.

Lawrence County CASA volunteers worked more than 2,500 hours in 2019. That is more than 2,500 hours that Lawrence County did not have to pay for.

The number of Children In Need of Services (CHINS) and Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) cases, and guardianship proceedings will continue to increase. The upward trend in cases is occurring statewide with few indications of relief in the near future.

“The CASA program must continue to grow so abused and neglected children in Lawrence County have an advocate protecting their best interests in and out of court,” said Judge Nikirk. “These are the most vulnerable children in our community.”

The CASA program in Lawrence County is always needing volunteers. To find about more about CASA call 812-277-7171.

The Numbers:

  • Number of CHINS Cases Served in 2019 – 146
  • Total Number of Volunteers in 2019 – 49
  • Total Number on Waitlist in 2019 – 98
  • Budget For CASA in 2019 – $119,159