Children in Sand Mountain could be losing a vital resource. A local child advocacy program is no longer receiving much-needed grant funding and could be forced to shut its doors.
Court-Appointed Special Advocates for Children provides a voice for abused and neglected children in the courtroom.
"We are the eyes and ears for the judges and the courts, to have a better picture of what's going on inside the homes," said Kelly Klein, executive director of CASA of North Sand Mountain.
Volunteers partner with kids and build a relationship to gain a better understanding of what is really going on inside their home. This helps the judge make a more informed ruling, with the child's best interest in mind.
"If we weren't here, the judges, the court system would not have a clue what's going on in the homes, at schools. We advocate for education, we advocate for counseling — we advocate for all of those things that kids need," said Klein.
Unfortunately, she said, cases have doubled over the past year, while grant money keeps getting slashed.
"Without the funding, we won't — I can't even say it, but we won't be there for them, and the judges won't have our ability, our information to make better choices that best serve the kids," said Klein.
She found about grant cuts last week through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Now, CASA is forced to move out of their office and into a small, single room provided by a nearby church.
"We really are month-to-month right now, and if we don't see our reimbursement dollars in the next week, we don't know if we can pay payroll the following week," said Klein.
Without CASA, all of the agencies that protect children in the community could be impacted.
"They do things of course law enforcement can't do," said Deputy Chief Investigator Priscilla Padgett with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office. "Of course, my role as law enforcement is to put the perp in jail. And their role is to be the voice for that child."
Padgett said it's a team effort to keep children safe, and CASA is a vital part of that team.
"It would be devastating if they don't receive, you know, receive the funds that they need," said Padgett.
She said for anyone who can donate, there is no better way to give back to the community.
"This money goes for children right here in DeKalb County," said Padgett.
CASA said they will continue to provide support to kids in the community for as long as they can.
If you would like to make a donation to CASA of North Sand Mountain, click here.