The Bartholomew County Circuit Courtroom was crowded last night as friends and family filled the seats to watch 10 new Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers take their oaths as officers of the Court. There was palpable excitement as Therese Miller, Executive Director of Advocates for Children, took the floor.
"Welcome to our staff," Miller greeted the new CASAs. "You may be volunteers, but we consider you a part of our staff - the most important part. You'll all be taking your first cases soon. I know you're ready. You've been trained by the best."
Each CASA volunteer completes a 36 hour training curriculum before being assigned to their first case. The classes are provided free of charge to incoming volunteers by Advocates for Children in their training facilities. The CASA volunteers then serve as the eyes and the ears of the Court and speak on behalf of the victims of child abuse and neglect, working to guarantee that every child has a safe, loving, and permanent home in which to thrive.
Before swearing the volunteers in, Bartholomew County Juvenile Magistrate Heather Mollo took a moment to thank the assembled crowd.
"Thank you for sharing your loved ones with us," Mollo said. "You may notice the occasional distracted look, or restless night. Know that as your family members wrestle with the difficult issues in their cases that they are making a profound difference. On behalf of the Juvenile Judges of the State of Indiana, I thank you."
"With the cases these volunteers will be assigned, our waiting list will fall below 300 children for the first time in over a year."
Mollo then led the new advocates through their oath. As the swearing-in concluded, and the volunteers lowered their hands, the audience erupted in cheers and applause.With this latest group, Advocates for Children has placed 23 new CASA volunteers in the field. But the need is still great, Miller says.
"With the cases these volunteers will be assigned, our waiting list will fall below 300 children for the first time in over a year," Miller says. "That's good news, but we're focused on the 298 children who remain. Advocates for Children won't be satisfied until every child who needs an Advocate has one."
The agency is already lining up the next training session, scheduled to begin on October 18th. Individuals interested in learning more about joining the session and becoming a CASA volunteer can sign up online or call the office at (877) 604-9402.