A packed courtroom greeted Bartholomew Court Juvenile Magistrate Heather Mollo and the staff of Advocates for Children as they prepared to swear in the latest group of Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers.
The 18 child advocates taking their oaths Monday comprised the largest group to graduate Advocates for Children’s training program since 2007.
Advocates for Children is a nonprofit agency that provides trained, qualified advocates to serve the best interests of children who have been removed from their families due to issues of abuse or neglect in Bartholomew, Decatur and Jennings counties.
Each year, more than 500 local children enter the child welfare system after becoming victims of abuse and neglect, according to Advocates for Children. The agency’s purpose is to protect the dignity and respect of the children.
CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. CASA volunteers sometimes represent the only constant adult presence in the children’s lives.
“We came into 2013 with over 200 children on the waiting list in need of a CASA volunteer,” said Therese Miller, Advocates for Children’s executive director. “I’m particularly excited that this class includes several volunteers from Jennings and Decatur counties, where the need is particularly great.
“We’ve still got a long way to go to meet our commitment to provide a CASA volunteer to every child who needs one, but this is a great way to start the year.”
The volunteers were given the oath of office in Superior Court I in the Bartholomew County Courthouse, and the room was filled with family, friends and community members who had come to lend their support to the new advocates.
Rick Scalf is community outreach coordinator for Advocates for Children. He can be reached at 372-2808 ext. 3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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