|Tue, Jul 22, 2014 07:28 AM
July 09, 2014 | 11:33 AM
Since 2005, as a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer, Sharon Uhl has helped provide a voice in court for Harrison County children who have been neglected and/or abused.
Recently, Uhl's efforts in sharing those voices were honored.
As part of a partnership started in 2007 between CASA and the Indiana Retired Teachers Association, Uhl received the IRTA Award for her outstanding contribution to CASA as director of Harrison Circuit Court CASA.
Uhl is the first person from Harrison County to receive the award.
The state director of GAL/CASA, Leslie Dunn, said Uhl's experience as a teacher and administrator allowed her to hit the ground running.
"She quickly grasped what she needed to do to run a strong program and set about to doing it. Running a strong CASA program involves many components, including strong leadership, compassion, good relationships with the court, volunteers and other stakeholders and good management skills," Dunn said. "Sharon exemplifies all of these traits."
Uhl said she was appreciative of the honor.
"I accept the award on behalf of all 250 former teachers (statewide) who are part of CASA also. We are blessed here in our county to have several retired teachers who are volunteers," Uhl said. "Children need a voice, and CASA is that voice. These are members of the community and are trained and can talk to a child and visit with a child. I think that's very important. For too many years, children didn't have a voice."
CASA volunteers are appointed to serve as an advocate for children who have been abused, neglected or are involved in custody cases, to find out what's going on in a child's life and to visit with the child on a regular basis, perhaps at school or in a home or wherever that child is living.
After meeting with social workers, teachers and/or medical providers who know the child, volunteers then advocate what is in the best interest of the child. CASA volunteers may suggest changes in medical care, schooling or counseling.
Uhl was nominated for the award by James Pierce, the IRTA Area 8 director.
In his nomination letter, Pierce said, "Sharon has shared her time, talents, expertise and caring nature with young people her whole adult life. Sharon is a true humanitarian and a valuable asset to our community. She approaches her duties with characteristically high standards. She is unfailingly gracious as she matter-of-factly carries out her duties working for children whom she loves. Sharon's real passion in life is working with children who have no one to fight for them."
Uhl said teachers make some of the best CASA volunteers because communication with children is ingrained.
"They know how to talk to children and parents and grandparents and how to write really good reports," Uhl said. "Those are all good, important things. Teachers already have a lot of the skill sets ingrained in them."
When asked why CASA is important to her, Uhl said that, as of the end of the second quarter, in June, 119 kids were served by Harrison Circuit Court CASA, with seven of those cases now closed. After training five volunteers this year, the county now has 35 volunteers.
"The need has really risen," Uhl said. "The children need a voice and went without a voice for so long."
Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a CASA volunteer can call the Harrison County office at 812-738-3645.