EATON — There are six new court-appointed special advocates for abused and neglected children, called simply CASA volunteers, for Preble County. They were sworn in by Judge Jenifer K. Overmyer on Wednesday, Nov. 22.
According to Mary Warrick, director of the Preble County CASA Program, the newly appointed CASA volunteers join eight other dedicated community members who advocate for children in the Preble County Juvenile Court. These children have been removed from their parents due to abuse or neglect or otherwise necessitated Children Services’ involvement.
As officers of the Court, the volunteers ensure that the children’s needs are recognized and their best interests are considered.
CASA volunteers are asked to meet with the child regularly and are authorized to interview people in the child’s life such as social workers, attorneys, and teachers. They attend court hearings with the child and report their findings to the judge.
“The volunteers are invaluable as they serve as the eyes and ears of the Juvenile Court,” Warrick said. “Our volunteers pledge to stay with each child until the case is closed and the child is placed in a safe and permanent home.”
The volunteers have already begun their work, as each is working on a case (with one working on two). Each case is different in nature, but the CASA volunteers work as the voice of the children, according to Judge Overmyer.
“If it wasn’t for the CASA volunteers I wouldn’t know half of what is going on. I want to know what is going on,” she said, following the ceremony. “Nothing against Children Services case workers, but CASA volunteers find out things that I’m shocked about. The volunteers get to know the family in a way that others can’t.
“Having a second set of eyes and ears is always important. I suspect some things, but it is nice to have some validation when the CASA volunteers see the same thing and have proof. There is so much paper work that they have to do that sometimes I feel like I am more of a social worker than the social worker is. CASA volunteers are the same way. They are responsible for speaking for the children — the innocent victims.”
Numerous Preble County children are waiting for a CASA volunteer to serve as their voice in Preble County Juvenile Court proceedings and more advocates are desperately needed. The only prerequisites for becoming a CASA volunteer are being at least 21 years of age, clearing an extensive background screening, and successfully completing 30 hours of training.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a CASA volunteer and the rewards that accompany being the voice of an abused or neglected child, please contact Mary Warrick at 937-456-2885 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Preble County CASA Program is a member of the Ohio CASA Association, the only statewide organization supporting all local CASA programs in Ohio, and the National CASA Association, a network of more than 900 CASA programs serving children in 49 states and Washington D.C.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH