Voices of CASA volunteers speak for ‘one child at a time’

Published 6:58 am Friday, June 24, 2005

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS - CASA "tries to make a difference one child at a time," according to Advocate Supervisor Lori Ruff at Tuesday afternoon's swearing-in of the 2005 class of five volunteers, Dorinda Charles of Dowagiac, Marvin Middleton of Porter Township, White Pigeon, Sue Myer of Niles, Sue Pattillo of Cassopolis and Yvette Green of Berrien Springs.
In a 1999 survey, "The courts in the community had just a slightly better rating than the state Legislature … and they're just slightly above the media in terms of trust and confidence in the system. I think, unfortunately, a lot of that is many times cases in court are based on the facts as presented in the courtroom," Dobrich said. "Maybe people know other facts and they have a different opinion."
As Court-Appointed Special Advocates, CASAs ferret out facts on behalf of the court so the judge can make the best decision in the children's interest.
True leaders embody certain qualities, the judge said. "They have reputations for integrity, they can demonstrate competency and they have a vision for the future. I know that your vision is to have a CASA for every child and to make every child in our community safe."
Dobrich said, "Unfortunately, many of our leaders nowadays play it safe … or they sit there" behind "it's not my job" or "it's not my fault."
CASA Director Pam Hemenway introduced board members Janet Feick, Joy Afamn and Russ Bergemann, County Commissioners John Cureton of Dowagiac and Johnie Rodebush of Howard Township and volunteers Lois Hall, Dora Crisler, Steve Sowder, Sharon Evans, Marilyn Hisey and Bev Kruggel.
Ruff said the five trainees "really are an extraordinary class."
Katherine Yoder, a foster care worker for the Department of Human Services, said through her association with CASA she saw children returned home to a family, "which was a wonderful thing we don't see very often. The children you'll work with will tug at your heart. You'll love them and they will love you, and you'll always remember them.
Prosecutor Victor Fitz said additional "eyes and ears" for the court "really come at a critical time here in Cass County."
Sowder, of Berrien Springs, said, "Congratulations, because you've finished the training portion, but it's the classroom lecture portion."
Now, in the "lab portion," CASA volunteers must apply what they learned "to a real-live situation with real-live kids. You will learn every case is different, even if the situations are similar. Different people are involved. You will have different experiences with every case. You will learn something from every case.
The first class graduated Sept. 22, 1997.
Anna Sain of Lewis Cass Intermediate School District started as a CASA volunteer with Cookie's case.