Seven volunteers stood in the Bartholomew County Circuit Courtroom on Tuesday evening and were sworn in as Court Appointed Special Advocates, pledging to serve in the best interests of local children who have entered into the child protection system.
Prior to the swearing, Advocates for Children's Executive Director, Therese Miller, welcomed the new advocates to the agency's staff. While they may not be paid for their work, she noted, the volunteers represent the most important piece of the organization, doing the daily work of lifting up the lives of the children they serve.
She also took a moment to thank the families in attendance for supporting their loved ones in this new endeavor. "They may have restless nights," Miller observed, "and may not be able to tell you much about what's happening in their case, but you'll know that they're making a difference."
Juvenile Magistrate Heather Mollo also took a moment to welcome the new advocates ahead of administering their oaths.
"On behalf of the juvenile judges of the state of Indiana, I want to thank you," Mollo said. "You may be small in number, but the impact of your work is so significant... Individually, your work as a CASA will make a difference in the lives of the children you are assigned to... thank you for being a voice for those children and hearing even the unspoken words of their heart."
The Judge also reminded the volunteers of the far-reaching nature of their roles as advocates and called them to be active in speaking out to the community.
"Your impact goes far beyond the courtroom..." Mollo explained. "As a group, you are a powerful voice in the community. You will have the ability to share your experience, and to help to educate your own families, your faith communities, your friends, and community leaders about what is needed to improve the quality of life of our children and their families."
The volunteers sworn in on Tuesday will immediately begin serving cases involving children who have been the victims of child abuse and neglect in Bartholomew, Decatur and Jennings counties and are in need of trained adults to serve as their voice in the courtroom. But with more than 300 additional children currently on the waiting list, Advocates for Children is not waiting to begin its next training class.
That session will begin on March 28th in North Vernon, and will consist of three hour sessions held every Monday and Wednesday evening over the course of the following six weeks.
Individuals interested in taking part in the upcoming class can sign up here, or call the office at (877) 604-9402.