A Terre Haute organization that advocates for abused and neglected children within the juvenile court system is seeing a large increase in the number of children it is serving even as state-wide numbers remain stable.
Terre Haute’s Court Appointed Special Advocates Director Nikki Fuhrmeister says last year her group added 188 children to its program. And it’s on pace to double that number this year.
“Our waitlist continues to grow,” she says. “We have about forty one or two children on our waitlist. I just went to a detention hearing this morning for two or three more children.”
When the Department of Child Services inspects the situation and decides a child needs to be removed from his or her home, they are given a detention hearing where the judge assesses the situation.
If he agrees with the Department of Child Services, the child is often referred to the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, where they are paired with someone who represents them throughout the legal process. But with such high demand, about 40 children are on a waitlist.
Fuhrmeister says she thinks drugs and the economy are two of the major factors causing the increase.
“Meth for one, we’re seeing a lot of that again,” she says. “We’re seeing a lot of bath salts. We’re seeing a lot of domestic violence. I think the stress on parents to make ends meet causes what we’re seeing.”
The organization is holding seminars regularly to train volunteers. But Fuhrmeister says many of the volunteers are already at their capacity–representing two to three children each.