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Volunteers to be child advocates in court

Two volunteers, Sera Friend, left, and Melissa Rowe,fill out paperwork in the Fayette Circuit Court room to become volunteers in the Fayette County CASA program. Looking on, right, is Judge Hubert Branstetter.

By BOB HANSEN - bhansen@newsexaminer.com

Two more volunteers are ready to go to work as advocates for children.

But that doesn’t mean the CASA program is getting a lot closer to have all the vacancies filled.

“We had three volunteers retire this year and that really put us back,” said Sheri L. Black/Tandy, deputy director for the Fayette County CASA/victim assistance program.

CASA stands for Court-Appointed Special Advocate. With the two new volunteers – Melissa Rowe and Sera Friend – the CASA program has 17 advocates.

Making them officers of the court, Fayette Circuit Court Judge Hubert Branstetter administered an oath to each of them and then told them, “You are needed and necessary. You’re going to provide information that I don’t have otherwise.”

The job of a CASA volunteer is to represent children in cases where a family is in court. Judges are asked to make decisions about what’s best for children. Working through the CASA office, they assign volunteers to families, where they often become friends with the child and give the court information about the child’s needs. 

Rowe and Friend both have personal commitments to helping young people.

Rowe said she’s been a foster parent 10 years but recently stopped. She wants to continue being involved in the lives of young people.

Friend said she’s worked with children in the past and wants to go to college to become a child psychologist, working with children who have trauma and abuse backgrounds.

“I’m going to put a lot of time into CASA,” she said.

To become a CASA volunteer, each had to complete several weeks of training from the CASA/victim assistance office. Thursday’s ceremony, in which they pledged to be an advocate for the children and keep the information they gather in confidence, means they can start their volunteer work.

For information about the CASA program, contact Black/Tandy in the CASA office on the second floor of the Fayette County Courthouse, 401 Central Ave., send email to casa@co.fayette.in.us or call 765-825-2778.