LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — A child advocacy group currently spread thin is desperately searching for volunteers who will help support youth during child protection cases in court in north central Idaho.

Executive Director Zenita Delva told the Lewiston Tribune that the 2nd Judicial District Court Appointed Special Advocates program in Lewiston only has 17 active volunteers to help staff with an average of 100 cases across the five counties it serves.

Delva thinks the emotional toll working with children that have been abused or neglected can take is one of the reasons why few people are eager to volunteer with the program.

"I hear people say, 'I can't do this because it's so sad,'" Delva said.

The volunteers are responsible for in-person visits with children at least once a month, overseeing visits between parents and children and conducting collateral interviews.

With so few volunteers, a large portion of the workload falls on Delva and other paid employees, leaving them little time to fundraise and write grant proposals, she said.

The volunteer shortage has also left children 12 years and older without visits from advocates who can access the best outcome for the child. Instead, the children are represented by an attorney.

To be a Court Appointed Special Advocates program volunteer, people have to 21 or older, pass a federal background check and undergo 30 hours of training. Although the children and their family's stories may be sad, Delva hopes people will be encouraged to volunteer knowing that their work could lead to a better life for the children they serve.

"We see more and more children come into care. We have twice as many kids in care as we did five years ago," Delva said. "We stay here because we know it works and it's beyond important, it's necessary."

___

Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com