FAIRMONT — Marion County children who undergo trauma and end up in the court system have three new advocates on their side as of Tuesday.
Circuit Court Judge Patrick Wilson swore in three Court Appointed Special Advocates on Tuesday in the Division I courtroom.
“We appoint volunteers through the court system to advocate for abused and neglected children in Marion County,” said Shannon Hogue, executive director of Marion County CASA.
CASA is a national organization whose goal is to use trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. They also work in technical assistance, training, public awareness activities, research and resource development, according to the CASA website.
“We’re always in need of volunteers in Marion County,” Hogue said. “To match the amount of petitions that come in, we’re always short volunteers. So we’re always excited when we get a group.”
These advocates are usually asked to donate around 10 hours a month minimum toward home visits, court appearances or other things the job requires.
“The most important thing is making those connections with children,” Hogue said. “We try to match them with volunteers who will advocate for their best interest.”
And the three new volunteers are excited to get started.
“I love kids and I just want to be able to fight for them and see them succeed,” said Hannah Lucas, one of the new advocates.
The desire to help these children in difficult situations is paramount to these volunteers.
“I have fostered a child,” said Amanda Tennant, one of the new volunteers. “I just want to be able help children and advocate for more children.”
These advocates come from all walks of life. This round of volunteers brought in a school principal.
“I’m the principal of an elementary school, so I’m aware of the situations that some of the kids are in,” said Melissa Mohr, principal of Heritage Christian School in Bridgeport. “I just want to help them. I love kids and I just want to give them a chance.”
For this sort of work, the wellbeing of children is at the heart. But to get there, advocates have to build a relationship with a children who may be coming from a place or trauma or abuse.
“I’m looking forward to making those relationships with the children,” Lucas said. “Just meeting them and trying to help them.”
The others agreed.
“I’m a little nervous about the first visit,” Mohr said. “But once we get down the road I’m excited for them to be excited to see me.”
CASA of Marion County is always looking for volunteers to help children in need. If interested in helping out or being an advocate, their office can be reached at 304-366-4198 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.