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Retired teachers become ‘voice’ for children

Last year in Indiana, there were more than 8,000 new cases of abuse and neglect involving children. Seventy-two of those were right in here in Harrison County.
Those sobering statistics can be found on the Harrison County CASA Web site. Now a new partnership between CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and the Indiana Retired Teachers Association is hoping to give a few of those statistics a voice.
‘You have the power to help Indiana’s youngest citizens ‘ the children,’ said Ralph Ayers.
That’s what a group of local Indiana retired teachers were told during an informational meeting Sept. 27 conducted by IRTA and CASA at Corydon United Methodist Church.
Ayers, executive director of IRTA, is excited about what he calls a ‘natural partnership’ between IRTA and CASA, and was using four fall meetings to spread the word about CASA and to urge members to volunteer. This partnership, endorsed by the Indiana state legislature, will serve as a national model of retired teacher organizations and CASA. In fact, the state of Indiana now requires a CASA for every child in every abuse or neglect case.
CASA is a volunteer-based organization that requires 35 hours of training before partnering a volunteer with a child involved in some sort of abuse or neglect court case. The volunteer would become a voice for the minor and would report back to the judge what’s in the best interest of the child.
‘It’s cost-effective. It’s helpful,’ Ayers said. ‘The child is truly benefited with personal attention.’
Sharon Uhl, retired North Harrison Upper Elementary School principal, agrees. She heard about CASA before retiring and she thought it would be ‘a good fit.’
If a court appoints a lawyer, they may meet with the child only a couple times, she said. But she remains in contact with her families and children daily, and as a volunteer, she’s saving the court money while providing a much-needed service.
‘The best part of the program is being the voice for the child,’ she said. ‘That’s the greatest thing there is.’
On average, each CASA volunteer has only two or three minors assigned to them, and each case lasts approximately two years. There are more than 4,000 children on a waiting list for a CASA volunteer in Indiana.
For more information on how to become a CASA volunteer, contact Harrison County CASA director Gloria Wood at 738-3645 or log on to www.harrisoncountycasa.org.

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