ELKTON — Five more Cecil County residents have joined the ranks of volunteers helping abused and neglected children in this county, having met their training requirements under the local Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program.
In a brief courtroom ceremony, Cecil County Circuit Court Judge Jane Cairns Murray recently swore in Jerry W. David, of Port Deposit; Deborah Bennett Carbin, of North East; Cori Newell, of Rising Sun; and Elkton-area residents Annmarie Hamilton and Heather Kellum, reported Guilia M. Hodge, executive director for CASA of Cecil County.
Having completed 30 hours of classroom training and two to three hours of court observation, the five volunteers officially will be able to help their assigned abused or neglected children in foster care, Hodge said. Currently, approximately 200 children in Cecil County are in foster care after they were removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect, she added.
This marks the first class of CASA volunteers to take their oath under the relatively new program here. In June, some four months earlier, Cecil County’s first CASA volunteer — Lloyd Johns, a retired school teacher from Elkton — was sworn in for his one-year commitment.
This group of CASA volunteers is composed of retirees — just like Johns — a nonprofit professional, a courtroom clerk and a registered nurse, according to Hodge.
The CASA volunteers believe their professional and domestic experience will serve them well as they interact with the youngsters to give them support and guidance. A CASA volunteer is assigned a child or, in some cases, a child and his or her siblings.
“I plan to combine my strong legal background and passion for helping children as a CASA volunteer,” explained Carbin, a retired paralegal, adding, “Making sure that children are treated with compassion and are safe, loved and protected has always been something I wanted to do. I figured what better way to do that than as a CASA volunteer.”
Kellum, a registered nurse who works at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., expressed similar sentiment. Kellum views the prospect of her service as a two-way street, with her life being enriched as she helps her assigned abused or neglected child.
“I look forward to meeting a child who can benefit from having a positive role model in his or her life,” she said. “I hope to make a difference in the life of a child and I am certain that once I am assigned to a case that he or she will make a profound difference in mine.”
In general terms, according to Hodge, CASA volunteers serve as the eyes and ears of the family court system in Cecil County, and they periodically submit reports.
“A CASA volunteer establishes a relationship with the child and gathers information from third parties,” Hodge said. “Whether it be through the child’s teachers, guidance counselors or foster parents, their primary goal is to make sure that the voices of children are heard within the courts and that their needs do not go unmet.”
Hodge expressed her gratitude to the five new CASA volunteers, as well as to Judge Murray for presiding over the recent swearing-in ceremony.
“I would like to publicly thank Judge Murray for administering the oath, and to our newly trained community members who will step up to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children here in our community,” she said.
CASA of Cecil County seeks dedicated men and women who care about children to volunteer. No special experience is required; training and supervision are provided by professional staff.
To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer, please call 1-410-996-3025 or email Hodge at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CASA of Cecil County is one of 15 local CASA programs throughout the state. The programs recruit, train and supervise volunteers appointed by the court to serve as advocates for children under court protection due to abuse and neglect, Hodge reported.
Currently, CASA serves children in 21 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions, Hodge said. By sustaining and strengthening the capacity of the program and the competency of its diverse community of volunteers, she added, CASA hopes to continue to expand until all children who have suffered from abuse and neglect and live in foster care in Cecil County are matched with CASA volunteers who will help them navigate their experience in foster care until they are placed in safe, nurturing and permanent homes.
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