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For a child placed into foster care, having an advocate is an important part of living an improved life.Mike Meltzer, of Lutherville, can now officially help abused or neglected children in foster care to successfully navigate the system. On June 3, the Honorable Judge Sherrie Bailey swore in Mike and three other county residents, making them Baltimore County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs).
Mike is currently a stay-at-home dad. He and his wife, Kelly, have a 16-year-old daughter named Jennifer. Mike has been assigned the case of a 16-year-old young man who entered foster care in 2014. Mike hopes that his professional experience working as a crisis counselor for adolescents in mental health facilities, combined with his own experience as a father will allow him to offer this young man the support and resources he needs. Mike has also been a camp counselor and worked in after school programs.
“I’ve always worked with children and adolescents, starting at a very early age,” Mike says. “Becoming a CASA volunteer seemed only natural and it affords me an opportunity to continue working with children.”
To become a CASA, Mike completed 30 hours of classroom training, then spent several hours observing courtroom procedures. He expects to see the young man assigned to him three or four times a month, and will accompany him to hearings in court. Mike will serve as the independent voice for this young man, working to make sure that the state is taking care of him. That will include getting to know this student and finding out what his needs are; assessing whether any struggles require assistance that is medical, educational, or mental health related. Although CASA of Baltimore County asks for a one-year commitment from its volunteers, Mike plans to serve the young man in his care until he ages out of the system when he turns 21.
Currently there are about 600 children in Baltimore County living in foster care. Only 175 of those kids have volunteers serving as their advocates. CASA is continually seeking more volunteers. If you are interested in ensuring that each child has a safe, loving, secure, and permanent home, go to their website for more information: http://www.casabaltco.org.
By the time you read this column, the school year will have come to an end. Congratulations to all of the graduates in our community. Whether the ceremonies marked the end of elementary school, the departure from middle school, or the excitement of graduating from high school or college, it is a time for anticipating all that the future holds. And a special congratulations to my son, Brennan, who is now headed to high school.
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