When child protection workers remove abused and neglected children from their homes, they are placed into foster care to keep them safe. For many children, this temporary solution continues for years while the child has no stability and no permanent family.
In the early 1990’s, Baton Rouge attorney Steve Strohschein learned that the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program helps these children reach safe and permanent homes. Steve quickly decided to get involved with CASA in his community – only to learn that there was no local CASA. Undaunted, Steve started organizing community members to discuss the need for such a program. After securing start-up funding, he coordinated the organization’s 501c3 status. Capital Area CASA Association opened in 2002 with Steve as chair of its Board of Directors. Under two terms of his careful guidance, the program took root and flourished.
Confident that Capital Area CASA Association was self-sufficient, Steve realized his goal of becoming a CASA volunteer in 1996. Caseworkers, therapists and teachers may change during a child’s stay in foster care, so the CASA volunteer is often the one consistent adult in the child’s life. Though the CASA volunteer commitment is one year, Steve served six years on one case and two years on a second case.
On his first case, Steve advocated strongly for the needs of his three CASA children. Steve never let them down, staying involved until they were adopted or reached adulthood. Meanwhile, he and his wife chaired the agency’s 1998 fundraiser, which tripled in revenue from previous years. After serving on the Board of Directors again, Steve took yet another CASA case. His current CASA child is Tom, (not his real name) a 14-year-old boy from another country who does not speak English. Deaf due to ear damage from bombings in his home country, Tom was abandoned in Baton Rouge and had suffered emotional and physical abuse. Steve works to ensure Tom’s needs are met and continues to be a powerful voice for him. Tom has made solid progress with foster parents who have experience working with deaf children.
Steve is an outstanding example of what it means to be truly committed to children. Upon learning there was no CASA program locally, it would have been easy for a successful attorney and dedicated family man to put aside a wish to become a child advocate. Thankfully, Steve stepped up to provide the leadership to make CASA a reality.
As a result of Steve’s efforts, more than 600 volunteers have spoken up for more than 1,000 children since 1992. In East Baton Rouge Parish, a foster child spends an average of five years in the state’s custody. With CASA involvement, this is reduced to two years. Because Capital Area CASA Association exists, local children are reaching safe, permanent homes more quickly. Steve has clearly been a positive force for abused and neglected children.