Court Appointed Special Advocates are voice of children
At a small ceremony in the Clermont County Juvenile Court Tuesday, Feb. 15, 12 new volunteers for the county Court Appointed Special Advocates program were sworn in. The new recruits make up a total of 50 volunteers for CASA For Clermont Kids! who serve as guardians ad litem for children who become involved in the court system.
“They are the voice for a child who is in an abuse situation and serve as a liaison between child services and the court,” Juvenile Court Judge Stephanie Wyler said.
The volunteers talk with the children to determine their needs and their situation and provide that information to the court on their behalf.
“Child Services finds them to be an invaluable tool,” Wyler said. “It’s someone else watching out for the best interests of the child.”
Wyler said before Clermont County began utilizing the program, and in counties without a CASA program the court appoints attorneys to advocate for the children. She said attorneys fees average $40 per hour outside of the court room and $50 per hour inside the court room.
Child Services Director Tim Dick said CASA is a great program that provides necessary assistance to Child Services.
“It’s a tremendous help for the children we serve because CASA volunteers are an independent voice for the children,” Dick said. “We are also doing what’s best for the child, but we have to look at the family as a whole.”
Dick said CASA volunteers are some of the few people who have open access to his Child Services records.
“That access helps them to make a determination when they are evaluating and assessing the situation,” Dick said.
While the volunteers do not need to be attorneys in order to provide CASA services, most do have a legal background. Wyler said CASA Executive Director Amanda List has partnered with Salmon P. Chase College of Law in Kentucky to offer law students an opportunity to gain necessary experience through volunteer work.
CASA volunteers undergo 40 hours of in-depth training which covers every aspect of the court docket. They are taught how to develop a case plan and speak with the children, but Wyler said an important part of the training focuses on the volunteers themselves.
“They are fully trained on the emotional impact that working with these children will have on them,” Wyler said. “A lot of times these are very sad situations.”
Wyler presided over the swearing in ceremony, which is the culmination of the volunteers’ training. Each volunteer takes an oath to adhere to strict ethical guidelines and to advocate for the best interest of the child.
List thanked the volunteers for their commitment.
“I am really excited to have 12 new guardians for kids in Clermont County,” List said. “CASA volunteers do incredible work for children and families.”
Dick said the increasing number of CASA volunteers reflects well on Clermont County.
“It’s a great program and it’s great to see so many members of the community taking an interest in abused and neglected children,” Dick said. “I think it says a lot about our community.”
CASA For Clermont Kids! is part of a national non-profit network of CASA organizations. Their annual spring charity benefit will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. April 8 at Receptions East. The event will feature auctions and a raffle. Tickets are $25 per person, $45 per couple, and $225 per table of 10.