Each day in California, 70 children who have been abused or neglected join the state's foster care system.
Each month in Merced County, Child Protective Services workers make 250 home visits to investigate cases of child abuse and neglect. Some 600 families are subject to frequent CPS supervision with case workers monitoring a child's health and well being.
Finally 500 Merced County children are removed from their homes each year and placed in foster care or group homes.
Cases involving these children and their local homes are often complicated, with competing interests, and one voice is sometimes left unheard: the child's.
In Merced County, that could all change soon with the creation of a CASA program. CASA volunteers can be any adult in the community who, after training, appears in court on behalf of child in the foster care system.
More than 8,000 California kids are served by 4,500 CASA volunteers and Merced is one of only 15 counties without a program.
To learn more about this new advocacy program, "Off the 99" invited to the studio Martha Hermosillo, a county child protective services supervisor, Superior Court Judge John Kirihara, and Steve Ashman, the executive director of the Stanislaus County CASA program.