CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — More children who are abused or neglected will be able to get help through the merger of the Effingham County and South-Central Illinois Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) programs.

The pairing will let the group develop resources and use money to expand into nine counties that make up the Fourth Judicial Circuit. Only three of those counties have a CASA program right now.

Executive Director Libby Moeller said the expansion will help them fulfill CASA’s mission.

“When a child comes into DCFS care, oftentimes the judge will appoint a CASA program if they exist in that county,” Moeller said. “Then in turn, our CASA program will appoint a volunteer advocate who stays with the child for the entire length of their case, and really answers to the judge in that report for the best interest of the child and what’s in the best interest of their family.”

They plan to expand into at least three more counties over the next year.