EVANSVILLE, Ind (WEHT) “I, state your name…”
A group of ten volunteers promise to uphold the law and be the voice of the child.
“We have to have them for our children.”
Judge Renee Ferguson will soon see them in her juvenile courtroom in Vanderburgh Superior Court.
“Parents are represented by the state, DCS is represented. We need someone to speak for these children and that is these CASA volunteers.”
The swearing in for these CASA comes after months of intense training under the tutelage of Christine Lutz.
“The family is in crisis, most likely because something happened to parents. Something happened that was determined to be abuse or neglect of the child. Most of it is substance abuse.”
Christine is an advocate herself and is now program director of CASA. She has trained hundreds of people over 14 years. Christine trains them to assess the families in crisis and advise the court what is best for the children involved.
“I think children deserve a voice. It’s not unusual for families to be in crisis, but when you don’t have resources available to you, or support, family members, or know what to do to get the help. Those kids deserve to have someone looking after them so their parents can take care of what they need to take care of to be better parents.”
But even beyond the 30 hours of training, Christine also offers continued support and encouragement, often in emotionally tough situations.
“She’s always there and she has enough experience that she can encourage us, She’s positive about things. So, when we get down, she lifts us back up.”
Christine says there are a lot of frustrations.
“You are seeing a lot of situations that are maybe completely out of your comfort zone. We have very minimum requirements to do this, you don’t have to be a social worker, and you don’t have to be a psychologist to do this. You just have to be committed and courageous and compassionate.”
“She’s positive, energetic, she raised these volunteers up,” says Judge Ferguson, “She trains them. She’s their mentor. That’s Chris and she works tirelessly class after class.”
“It’s part of who I am. It’s about people helping people. I am an advocate, but to share what I know with other people so they can go out and help more children, that’s what keeps me doing this”
And in the minute and 15 seconds it takes to be sworn in, with Christine’s training, these CASA advocates are now ready to get to work as the voice of the child.
If you’d like more information on becoming a CASA volunteer, click here.
(This story was originally published on March 3, 2020)