CASA/GAL seeks volunteer advocates for children


By Melanie Yingst - myingst@aimmediamidwest.com



MIAMI COUNTY — Miami County CASA/GAL is seeking volunteers to help local children in need.

Executive Director Nikki Sherck said the court advocacy organization has helped 127 children from 47 families so far this year. Of those 127 children, 55 are new cases in the county court system.

The organization’s mission is to provide a Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian Ad Litem (CASA/GAL) to each child for whom placement is being determined by Miami County Juvenile Court.

“These are all children who have entered the court system through either abuse, neglect or dependency and each one was assigned a volunteer advocate that advocates for the child’s best interest,” she said. “This is an opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child who had no voice and ability connect with other like-minded volunteers.”

Miami County CASA/GAL will hold a new volunteer training session around Oct. 7. Once online and in-person training is complete, the volunteer is sworn in by the courts and can begin casework.

According to Sherck, volunteers can serve up to 10 hours a month, depending on where the child is in the case process. Volunteers also should have good verbal and writing skills to investigate the details of a child’s situation and provide a written report to the court.

Volunteers meet with the child monthly throughout a case and talk to caregivers, school officials, counselors, family members to determine the current situation and make recommendations to the court as to what is in the child’s best interest, Sherck said.

When a case becomes available, CASA staff members identify an appropriate volunteer based on geographic location, case circumstances and volunteer interests. Once assigned a case, the volunteer will receive the details of the complaint, then begin meeting with the child, family, any caregivers and service providers investigate the current situation and formulate a recommendation. The volunteer’s report is submitted to the court and taken into account when decisions are made for the outcome of the case.

While volunteering on behalf of children can be rewarding, it does have its challenges, Sherck said.

“It can be difficult to see the circumstances that some children are subjected to in our community. Sometimes the court process can be a challenge and our recommendations are not always taken,” she said. “Our volunteers do not provide any direct services for the child. They are not allowed to transport the child or family members in their vehicle. They do not provide counsel or legal advice to the child or family. We are a child’s voice in court.”

Interested parties will need to fill out the application and administration will contact them for an interview process prior to selecting volunteers.

The application can be found online at www.miamicountycasa.org. For more information, contact Miami County CASA/GAL at info@miamicountycasa.org or call (937) 335-0209.

By Melanie Yingst

myingst@aimmediamidwest.com