Rock County swears in new child court advocates but needs more
JANESVILLE, Wis. (WMTV) - Fifty-eight children experiencing abuse or neglect in Rock County need a court appointed special advocate to represent their cases.
A court appointed special advocate serves as a volunteer who speaks for a child’s interest with a judge or court so that child does not have to appear in court themself.
According to Rock County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Executive Director Sandy Johnson, children without a CASA advocate are left in limbo while their parents are removed from the situation and working on themselves.
Five volunteers went through the nine-week training program and were sworn in at the Rock County Courthouse on Tuesday.
Janesville mother Erica Boehlke was one of the volunteers who took the 40-hour volunteer training course because she understands how challenging life for foster children can be.
Boehlke recently retired from work as a parole officer, her family fostered children in the past and she adopted her son Damon. The CASA advocate swearing-in ceremony happened inside the same courtroom where she adopted her son.
“Hopefully I walk out thinking I had some influence on that child’s life,” Boehlke said.
Johnson said people like Boehlke make CASA’s work possible.
“Without community volunteers and people who are willing to step up and say ‘I can make a difference in the life of a child’ CASA would not exist,” Johnson said. “Once you are assigned to a child or sibling group, you stay with that child or sibling group until that case closes and that child has found permanency in a safe loving home.”
Though Johnson wishes there were more volunteers, she said Tuesday’s group swearing-in is a hopeful sign for five children or groups of siblings waiting to meet their advocates.
“It’s very rewarding to see that they have gone through the training and their commitment is strong enough so that they say yes I am willing to sign up,” Johnson said.
Experience does not matter.
In order to volunteer, one must be 21 years of age or older and live in Rock County or neighboring Wisconsin counties.
Applications can be found here
Johnson’s goal is to build a backlog of volunteers so no neglected or abused children have to wait for a CASA once they’re in the system. She said they are 30 volunteers short of that goal.
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